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Tucson City Council passes vaccine mandate for city employees

City workers need to provide proof of at least one dose by Aug. 24
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Posted at 11:30 AM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-15 14:09:30-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Tucson City Council voted Friday to require city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Friday, in an emergency meeting, Mayor and Council in a 6-1 vote passed the ordinance that now requires employees to provide proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot by Aug. 24. The measure includes a five-day suspension for city employees who do not comply; however, there are religious and medical exemptions to the ordinance.

A memorandum from City Manager Michael Ortega, explained the city conducted a survey of employees' vaccination status. About 74% of the city's 4,500 employees responded, and around 79% of respondents said they were fully vaccinated. Ortega says based on these numbers, he estimates about 1,000 city workers are not vaccinated.

According to the ordinance, the mandate will not go in place if 750 of the 1,000 that have not yet been vaccinated get the first shot by August 20.

“We are developing a list of, we’ll call them pop-up pods, now that are available or will be available next week as well. I’m also working to develop some pods that we would designate on the 23 and the 24,” explained Michael Ortega, city manager.

The ordinance also comes with incentives, like time off.

At least three city labor unions are against the mandate, according to Mayor Romero and City Manager Ortega during Tuesday's study session.

In response to the ordinance, The Tucson Police Officers Association released the following statement:

The Tucson Police Officers Association has worked tirelessly with the city of Tucson to maintain service delivery throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Several hundred of our officers have chosen to become fully vaccinated. Today the city plans to adopt a mandatory employee vaccination policy: vaccinate, or face discipline, up to and including termination.
We take the pandemic seriously. We also take our employee rights seriously. The city made this decision outside of the normal meet and confer process and without regard to the several labor agreements that govern changes in working conditions.
The decision to vaccinate is extremely complicated and deeply personal. We call for the city to delay this policy. Our police and fire personnel have been stretched to the limit over the past year and a half. Now is the time to stand together, not make rash decisions.
Tucson Police Officers Association

The Tucson City Council will review the ordinance again on September 9.

Earlier this week, the Pima County Board of Supervisors considered a similar measure for its employees, which failed on a 4-1 vote.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 272 new cases of COVID-19 in Pima County Friday, with a seven-day average of 193 daily new cases and zero deaths. According to Pima County's most recent survey of hospital capacity from Aug. 4, 97% of ICU beds in the county are in use. Emergency Department bed capacity is at 71% -- up 25% from a month prior.