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Tucson says vaccine mandate for city workers will have near-total compliance

Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 19:22:37-05

TUCSON, AZ — With a December 1 deadline looming, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero says only 33 of the city’s 3,920 employees are not completely vaccinated for COVID-19 or received an accommodation or religious exemption.

That’s a 99% compliance rate. Of the 33 employees, 13 received one COVID-19 shot.

“At the end of the day after all of the ruckus by the state legislature, by the governor, by the attorney general we are down to 20 employees not wanting to get the vaccine, not wanting to comply,” Mayor Romero said.

Tucson’s pursuit of a vaccine mandate began in August.

In October the city council voted 4-3 to enact the vaccine mandate for city workers. They have until December 1 to comply or face termination.

During the proceeding months, state lawmakers sued and lost. Public safety unions worried fired employees would jeopardize the city, but according to Mayor Romero, it’s not going to happen. “We had a responsibility to each other as employees and to the community.”

On December 7, the public gets to weigh in on the Phoenix vaccine mandate. Unlike Tucson, which pushed for its mandate strictly as a public health matter, Phoenix says it’s compelled to obey a Biden administration order requiring federal contractors to have their employees vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19.

City Councilwoman Ann O’Brien requested the public hearing on the mandate.

“It’s to learn more about the legality of the executive order as well as the definition of a federal contractor and why our city attorney believes we fall under that umbrella,” O’Brien said.

Phoenix has no official count on how many of its employees are vaccinated.

So far 7,300 of the city’s 14,000 employees submitted their vaccination cards to earn a $75 safety award.

The remainder have until the end of the year to show they are vaccinated or received either have accommodation or religious exemption. Not complying could lead to being terminated.

The city’s largest police union and the union representing firefighters joined in Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s federal lawsuit against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

United Phoenix Firefighters Association Vice President Bryan Willingham said firefighters think the decision to be vaccinated should be theirs alone to make.

“We are a microcosm of society. So it’s no different what you see everywhere else and it is really sad.” Willingham said the issue is dividing his membership.

Tucson’s Mayor Romero has heard all the arguments. In the end, whether it was reluctantly or the satisfaction of feeling protected against COVID-19, Tucson city workers complied with the vaccine mandate.

Her advice to Phoenix is, “Stay solid, stay unified, stay on course.”