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Many Tucson city employees remain unvaccinated despite mandate, councilman says

Aug. 24 is the last day for employees to report their vaccination or face discipline
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Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 11:50:55-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It's the last day unvaccinated Tucson city employees can report their shots, and a Tucson City Councilman is disappointed with the numbers so far.

The mayor and city council passed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees earlier this month, setting a deadline of Aug. 24. With the final day at hand, Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik says far fewer unvaccinated employees have reported their status to the city than they'd hoped, and far more have applied for exemptions to the mandate.

Of the approximately 1,000 city employees who weren't vaccinated before the mandate was passed, only about 100 have reported getting the shot so far, Kozachik said. He also said most of the exemptions requested were medical rather than religious.

"The people who are asking for this are first and foremost our public safety guys who are out on the front lines," Kozachik said. "I would expect them to be the ones who are saying 'Look, we are the ones who have acted decisively throughout this pandemic and we ought to keep doing that.'"

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Kozachik says no department in the city government has a 100% vaccination rate. When passing the vaccination mandate for city employees, the council voted to hit those who don't comply with a five-day, unpaid suspension, leaving open the possibility for further disciplinary action if needed.

Kozachik also says he supports further action for employees who refuse to be vaccinated.

"The five days off was not compelling to anybody and now they're running off to Dr. Strangelove to get an exemption," he said. "And I've said since day one, we ought to draw a line in the sand and say you're fully vaccinated by X date, or you're no longer a City of Tucson employee."

Kozachik stressed the importance of vaccination and expressed frustration at the outcome of the city's mandate.

"It's a petri dish waiting to see the germs just spread," Kozachik said. "And so, we're right in the middle of this right now. The numbers continue to escalate. And I think it's highly irresponsible for our public safety people, in particular, to be simply throwing their hands up saying, you know, 'my liberties should prevail.' Your liberties prevail until they affect the health and well-being of other people, and that's the case here."