In response to various business and governmental entities mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for employees, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told people in a video posted to Twitter that he would not be imposing a mandate for his workers. Gov. Doug Ducey issued an order on August 16 prohibiting local governments from issuing vaccine mandates. It is punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor or other legal action.
Lamb said, “As long as I am your sheriff, we will never mandate the vaccine. We believe that your health choices are yours and yours alone. Whether you get the vaccine, or don’t get the vaccine, that’s your private information. Here, we believe in America and freedom and we’re going to continue on with that. God bless.”
The City of Tucson issued a vaccine mandate for its employees on August 13. Tucson city employees had until August 24 to get it, otherwise face suspension without pay for five days, as well as possible “mandatory testing, restrictions on travel or eligibility for certain assignments, enhanced mask-wearing requirements and more.” The only exceptions are for medical or religious reasons.
State Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate Tucson over the policy. She called the mandate “a clear violation of Executive Order 2021-18.” Brnovich issued a statement saying that local governments do not have the authority to impose vaccine mandates. He gave Tucson until September 1 to respond.
The Tucson Police Officers Association, along with the Tucson Fire Fighters Association and Communications Workers of America Local 7000, filed a lawsuit against the city’s mandate, stating that it violates state law and union bargaining policies. The suit says unvaccinated workers face “severe and potentially career-ending repercussions.” The union president, Don Jorgenson, testified that a pregnant officer didn’t have time to get a medical exception by the deadline. He also said it would result in resignations at a time when the number of officers was already low.
City Attorney Mike Rankin responded during the hearing, “The fact of the matter is that we are in the midst of yet another surge of this virus.” Pima County judge Richard Gordon sided with Tucson, dismissing the lawsuit on August 20 despite Ducey’s order.
He declared, “It’s a tough decision, but the facts are the facts.”
COVID-19 is not experiencing a big surge in Arizona like it is in some parts of the country. According to Worldometer, the spike is significantly smaller than the winter surge, and the increase in deaths is fairly small. On January 12, during the worst of the winter surge, there were 335 deaths. A few days ago on August 21, the most recent data from Worldometer shows 36 deaths, just over 10 percent of the winter’s high death toll.
Lamb previously said he would not enforce any mask mandate. He also said he would not enforce the stay-at-home order issued by Ducey on May 1 issuing non-essential businesses to close.
The Pima County Supervisors — the county where Tucson is located — voted down a vaccine mandate on August 10 by 4-1 for employees. The supervisors voted down a school mask mandate.
Ducey issued an executive order on June 15 prohibiting universities and colleges from mandating the vaccine. The governor also banned state and local governments from requiring vaccine passports on April 19.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at the Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Lamb” by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.