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Pima Co.: Vax firings will not lead to jail releases

Fewer Officers to be fired for refusing vaccine
Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 20:51:18-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pima County Jail will not be releasing prisoners because jail Corrections Officers refused COVID vaccinations. The Acting County Administrator says there’s a major drop in the number of Sheriff’s Deputies and Corrections Officers in line for dismissal.

Pima County requires COVID vaccinations for workers like jail corrections officers who can’t really keep their distance from other people. The order applied to other county workers who have to work close to vulnerable populations.

Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher says the number of all county workers in line for firing was 427, then it dropped to 111. Now it’s at 51.

Lesher says the number for Deputies and Corrections Officers dropped to 22 after the Sheriff determined many had not reported their vaccination status because they were away on family leave or military duty.

She says the number of deputies and corrections officers in line for firing now is not high enough to require cutting the jail population.

“In speaking with the Sheriff and the leadership in the Sheriff's Department no one will be released from the jail. And the Sheriff has been consistently stating that he he can ensure the safety of not only the entire community but the people who are within the jail with the staff that he has."

Supervisor Steve Christy suggested antibody testing as a vaccine alternative for workers who refuse vaccinations to see if they have natural immunity. But Dr. Francisco Garcia, the County’s Chief Medical Officer says it’s hard to prove natural immunity is reliable immunity.

"That's just not a good and practical way of being able to say Supervisor Christy or Correctional Officer X has this level of antibody that's specific to this particular variant and therefore did not did not present a potential threat to a vulnerable population.”

Pima County officials say there’s so much demand for free COVID testing that even though Supervisors committed an additional three million dollars for tests the County may run out of money for tests as soon as the middle of February. A different estimate says money could run out in March.