TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pima County Sheriff’s department has been hit hard with COVID. Staff will start to get vaccinated this week.
Sheriff Chris Nanos walked into his first day on the job (Jan. 4) with a pandemic problem.
More than a hundred of his staff are on pandemic leave.
In his first week, the sheriff created a COVID task force to deal with getting the entire department, about 1400 employees, vaccinated while still keeping the community safe.
“They’re moving full steam ahead and it’s not an easy task,” he said.
That’s because his January 8th report showed 263 inmates are infected with COVID, more than 70 jail staff are out on pandemic leave, as well 20 to 30 deputies in the field.
“I have people in a bad way, sick with the virus, and we’re praying for them,” he said.
It’s even hit the academy hard.
Nanos expected about two dozen new recruits to already be on the job, but he said, "23 cadets all graduate and 10 of them come down with COVID. Now we got to lock them all down and there’s another staffing issue.”
Nanos said that’s on top of a current staffing shortage of more than a hundred vacancies.
But another challenge could be looming.
Nanos said Pima County has mandated all employees get vaccinated, but we’re learning from the largest deputies union that some members might refuse. (KGUN9 has learned that Pima County is not mandating staff be vaccinated.)
Meantime, Nanos told KGUN9 that keeping his staff safe from COVID is at the top of his priority list.
“So we have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.
Nanos said the case and exposure numbers fluctuate daily.
The PCDSA issued a statement on January 8th.
Sheriff Chris Nanos has formed a COVID Task Force and has included the Pima County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (“PCDSA”) as part of the team. The Sheriff’s move to include our frontline deputies in solving problems and creating policies is a welcome change from the past administration.
By including our President Eric Cervantez and our Vice President Ricardo Garcia, Sheriff Nanos is signaling a new era of cooperation and collaboration. The PCDSA understands the urgency with which we must accelerate vaccinations in the next three months. Our deputies are ready to do their part to assist. Sheriff Nanos has also listened to our concerns about the availability of PPE and is taking a leadership role in the county government to provide it.
The PCDSA urges the citizens of Pima County to follow CDC guidelines, wear masks and maintain social distancing protocols. Our deputies are devoted to your safety, and we believe our new Sheriff is, too.