By Corinne Murdock
Tucson’s vaccine mandate may be the end of a career for many first responders. The city now requires that all of its employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Tuesday – also the deadline for all religious and medical exemption applications. If not, city employees face penalties such as unpaid suspension and are excluded from certain benefits such as leave. The council plans to convene again on September 9 to determine whether they’ll make refusal of the vaccine a fireable offense; this decision is contingent on the amount of employees who get vaccinated.
The vaccine mandate impacts first responders the most. According to city data, firefighters and police officers have the lowest vaccination rates among city employees. City data also notes that these first responders collectively answered nearly 435,000 calls in 2020 – even with stay at home orders and mandated closures.
One legal challenge to the vaccine mandate has already been shot down. Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Gordon denied a request from the Tucson Police Officers Association (TPOA) for a restraining order against the city policy. Gordon said that TPOA and those who testified failed to show that they would suffer irreparable harm from the mandate.
Tucson City Council asserts that strict measures should be taken for those who don’t get vaccinated – even termination. Councilman Steve Kozachik suggested that the city fire all employees who don’t become fully vaccinated by the end of September.
“If left to me, I’d set a date [or] a deadline and terminate anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated,” stated Kozachik. “The ordinance should say ‘get vaccinated by September 25 – fully vaccinated – or you forfeit your employment as a city worker.’”
Tucson’s mandate comes as health officials are urging booster doses of the vaccine, following reports of more breakthrough cases and a spike in the Delta variant.
In an executive order published two weeks ago, Governor Doug Ducey clarified that vaccine mandates were outlawed by statute. The governor noted that any violations of this law would be considered a class 3 misdemeanor and subject to legal action.
In relation to Ducey’s remarks on the legality of vaccine mandates, Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced last week that his office was investigating Tucson’s vaccine mandate.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) published an opinion last month arguing that emergency use authorization-only vaccines could be mandated.
State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) told AZ Free News that this mandate was a politicized move that threatens public safety. The representative assured that the state legislature would mete out proper justice if Tucson doesn’t retract its mandate.
“Tucson has gone full communist with its latest threat to fire employees who make the individual choice to hold off on taking the COVID vaccine at this time,” stated Hoffman. “The fact that Tucson’s partisan politics would sacrifice public safety to promote an unlawful, anti-science, forced vaccination policy is a bridge too far. If the far-left politicians in Tucson refuse to follow the law, the legislature will have no choice but to address their lawlessness come January.”
Similarly, Alex Kolodin, the attorney for the biology teacher suing Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) for its mask mandate, said that Tucson’s mandate is a means of catching the President’s attention.
“Firing first responders during the public health emergency just so that they can suck up to Joe Biden by flouting the law seems like a really bad move,” assessed Kolodin.