Pima County recently fired 56 employees after they chose to not get vaccinated against COVID-19, county officials said Monday.
Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher wrote to the Board of Supervisors that the majority of employees working with vulnerable populations gave their proof of vaccination by the county’s Dec. 31 deadline, the Tucson Sentinel reported.
“I’m sad to report that some county employees chose not to be vaccinated or failed to receive an exemption, and were dismissed from county employment,” Lesher said.
Majority of County Employees Vaccinated
Pima County, Arizona’s second-largest county, voted in October to require employees who work with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly, as well as corrections officers, to be vaccinated before 2022.
County officials said only 16 full-time employees out of the 2,048 who work with vulnerable populations were fired.
Lesher said out of the 2,048 employees working with vulnerable populations, 1,883 were confirmed as fully vaccinated, marking around 92%.
There were 23 county employees who received exemptions in accordance with laws at the state and federal levels. Those employees were given until Jan. 30 to find another position working for the county. Lesher said until then they won’t be in the workplace.
Sheriff’s Department Sees Firings—and Resignations
Of the 56 fired, 17 were Pima County Sheriff’s Department employees. The remaining 39 worked for various other county agencies, including the health department, parks and recreation, and the county attorney’s office.
The Tucson Sentinel reported that a dozen Pima County Sheriff’s Department employees chose to quit instead of complying with the vaccine mandate and 28 county employees who hadn’t gotten vaccinated were reassigned to other duties.
Michael Dominguez, president of the Sheriff’s Labor Association, told Tucson’s ABC-affiliate station KGUN that approximately 40 officers had resigned last month, leading to severe staffing shortages in the Sheriff’s Office.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have pushed back against vaccine mandates. The Los Angeles Times reported a judge denied the LAPD union’s request to temporarily halt a vaccine mandate. Up to 80 unvaccinated officers in Providence, Rhode Island, could face termination as well, according to WPRI.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 20 members of law enforcement died in 2020. Of the 20, half died of COVID-19.
Enforcing Vaccine Requirements
Several other Arizona healthcare companies like Banner Health, ValleyWise, and Dignity Health also required employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The county isn’t the only place firing workers who don’t get the vaccine. Mayo Clinic said earlier this month that it fired about 700 of its staff members who refused the vaccine, according to a report from Arizona’s Family.
Both the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey tried to block vaccine mandates over the summer of 2021 by passing a state law blocking them. That law was overturned by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has also filed challenges against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for any company that employs over 100 people.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 14,160 new cases of COVID-19 and 213 deaths Tuesday. According to data presented by ADHS, the majority of new COVID cases and the overwhelming majority of COVID deaths occur in the unvaccinated.