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Pima moves to require COVID shots for all county gov't workers

Coronavirus health care costs increasing for self-insured Pima County

All employees of Pima County will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under a policy being considered by the Board of Supervisors.

Citing the recent increase in the number of reported coronavirus infections, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is advising the elected supervisors to mandate that all county staff get their shots by October 1.

Supervisor Sharon Bronson, chair of the county board, has suggested the county revisit requiring workers to get COVID shots, raising the issue two weeks ago. The requirement will be up for a vote at the August 10 meeting of the mostly Democratic supervisors.

About 2,000 of the county's 6,800 employees are known to have already been vaccinated, officials said, but disclosure has been on a voluntary basis thus far. The county has spent more than $3 million through June on COVID-19-related health claims.

The supervisors had reviewed the possibility of requiring vaccinations during a March meeting, but had adopted what Huckelberry called a "wait and see attitude" in a memo just sent to the county board.

Noting that "we are now more than 18 months into the present pandemic," the county administrator said that vaccinations are "widely available and proven to be safe and efficacious," and that vaccination rates have become static even as the "highly infectious" Delta variant is coupled with an increase in COVID-19 cases here, and both hospitalizations and deaths due to the disease are rising.

"Vaccinating our employees not only protects the employee, but also the public," Huckelberry wrote in the Friday memo. "Many Pima County departments and agencies are involved in the delivery of direct services to the public, increasing the public's risk to COVID-19 exposure if employees are unvaccinated. Vaccination will minimize the risk of employees acquiring COVID-19 infection from an unvaccinated employee or our employees who are unvaccinated transmitting COVID-19 to the public."

While other employers, including Banner Health, have picked November 1 as a target deadline for all staff to be vaccinated, others have picked earlier dates, and Huckelberry said the "recent acceleration" of coronavirus cases means the county should choose a date "no later than October 1."

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In addition to Bronson, Supervisor Matt Heinz, who works as a medical doctor in a local hospital, has also been vocal in calling for a vaccination mandate.

Supervisor Steve Christy, the lone Republican on the county board, told TucsonSentinel.com that he opposes any mandates.

Feds OK vaccination requirements for workers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found that it is legal to require employees to be vaccinated or be blocked from the workplace.

Workers can request an exemption due to a medical disability or a sincerely held religious belief, and if their request is upheld after a review, can be provided a reasonable accommodation — such as telecommuting, a separate office, additional personal protective equipment, etc. — so long as it is not an "undue hardship" on the employer.

Pima officials forecast a limited number of county workers will request an accommodation, based on data from other employers that have instituted mandatory vaccinations — such as Houston Methodist medical center, which prevailed in a lawsuit over its requirement for coronavirus shots.

The county has spent about $3.2 million for COVID-related health expenses through June, officials said — with the pace of expenses accelerating over the first six months of the year. $1.4 million of the total expense came between January and June.

The county is self-insured, and directly pays for health care costs for covered staff and their families.

Of that amount, about $625,000 was spent on testing for COVID, and about $94,000 on vaccinations.

Number of cases growing in Pima County

There were another 1,846 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Arizona on Monday, as Delta variant cases continue to spike. Officials have advised that everyone — even those who've been vaccinated — wear masks while indoors in public.

Those new reported infections came after about 6,000 new coronavirus cases in the state over the preceding three days, Arizona Department of Health Services data showed.

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Following 1,965 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported on Friday, another 2,066 cases were added to the count on Saturday, with another 2,306 reported infections on Sunday.

Friday's daily case update was the largest increase since the beginning of March. Both Saturday and Sunday's additions were even larger.

18,252 Arizonans have died from COVID-19, with 24 new deaths reported Friday, 22 on Saturday and 5 more added to the total on Sunday, with one additional death on Monday.

Mondays have seen the lowest reports of new cases and deaths throughout the pandemic. ADHS figures are updated each morning, based on reports from hospitals and laboratories the previous day, but not all new cases precisely correspond with the date they are reported. Some new cases may not be included for 4-7 days, state health officials have said, with weekend reports typically lacking some of the latest cases.

The number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID infections has also hit numbers not seen since the start of March, with more than 1,169 patients — double the number at the beginning of July, and an increase of 63 hospitalized patients since just Friday morning's count.

In Pima County, 2,459 people have died from the coronavirus.

There have been more than 120,500 reported cases in the county — with 148 new confirmed infections reported Monday, after 41 new cases on Sunday. Saturday, there were 241 new reported cases in Pima County. That followed 106 new confirmed infections on Friday, with 174 new cases Thursday, 114 new cases Wednesday, and 58 new reports last Tuesday.

Across the state, there have been more than 931,000 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began last year. Statewide, 1,846 new cases were reported Monday, folllowing 2,306 new cases Sunday, 2,066 new reported infections Saturday, 1,965 new cases on Friday, 1,759 new cases Thursday, along with 1,361 new confirmed cases Wednesday and 1,475 new cases reported last Tuesday.

In Pima County, one out of 426 residents has died from the virus, and health officials are "strongly recommending" that everyone wear face masks in public indoor settings — even those who've been fully vaccinated.

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have your say   

3 comments on this story

Aug 3, 2021, 10:08 am
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... information to fulfill their narrative. People need to
wake up. God gave us minds and brains. We need to use them.

It’s several layers deep. They’re selective about the information provided; they’re trying to place a ‘political spin’ about a medical scientific reality, and it’s beyond disturbing if you happen to be wise to the reality and the science.

We’ve got scientific papers published this year that are raising the alarm. We’ve got whistleblowers pointing out the suspiciously unnecessary flaws in the manufacturing in some countries, like Convaxin. There’s not much being said about RCS or superbug outbreaks this summer in DC and Texas medical facilities that cannot be treated with front-line medicine.

Even the Bullet of Atomic Scientists are writing things like the following on their infamous countdown-to-doomsday clock:

Humanity continues to suffer as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world. In 2020 alone, this novel disease killed 1.7 million people and sickened at least 70 million more. The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly. In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.

As a result, many hundreds of thousands of human beings died needlessly.

Though lethal on a massive scale, this particular pandemic is not an existential threat. Its consequences are grave and will be lasting. But COVID-19 will not obliterate civilization, and we expect the disease to recede eventually. Still, the pandemic serves as a historic wake-up call, a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently pose existential threats to humanity, or the other dangers—including more virulent pandemics and next-generation warfare—that could threaten civilization in the near future.

The main take-home is that the government telling people to take off their masks just as delta was taking root in the community was not just “hamhanded” or “accidental” or anything like that. They understood perfectly well because we have all the other countries in the world whose examples they and we all have been watching closely. They also have their computer models.

They understood they would be able to implement sufficient public immunity to achieve herd immunity against delta, and knowing this, they chose to manage the situation in away that would make this reality as costly and damaging to innocent life as possible, and that’s just what they’re doing. It’s beyond criminal.

Aug 2, 2021, 6:21 pm
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Aug 2, 2021, 6:21 pm
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Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry at a December 2020 county meeting.


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