You'd think that people who work in the San Francisco Police Department or at SF General who interact with the public all day long would have run to get vaccinated the minute they were eligible last winter. But no!
November 1 is the cutoff for all city employees to be fully vaccinated or face possible termination. But the deadline was October 13 for employees in high-risk settings like police, firefighters, and healthcare workers.
The City of San Francisco is now going through the process of holding hearings for those employees who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 — and who are seeking an exemption from doing so. Mayor London Breed tweeted on Tuesday that these include dozens of active-duty police officers, 43 sheriff's deputies, 28 firefighters, and 224 employees of the Department of Public Health, which includes employees at SF General and Laguna Honda hospitals.
These numbers seem staggering for a place like San Francisco that has otherwise been very quick to vaccinate. But in the larger picture, 96% of city employees are fully vaccinated, which is higher than the city tally overall — and reflective of people's desire to hold onto their jobs.
"I'm encouraged by the number of employees who have gotten vaccinated as the deadline approaches and optimistic that will continue," Breed said. "We will continue to work with all employees who aren’t vaccinated. I don’t want to lose a single City worker. Nobody does. But I won’t sacrifice the health and safety of our workforce and the public. COVID is not going away, and we need to be prepared for the future."
On November 1, employees who aren't vaccinated will be suspended without pay, and after a due process hearing they can be separated from the City.— London Breed (@LondonBreed) October 19, 2021
We're in the middle of hearings for employees in high-risk settings, who have an earlier deadline. This includes:
In total, 1,418 employees are not yet vaccinated. We're continuing to conduct outreach to these employees to try to address any concerns they have.— London Breed (@LondonBreed) October 19, 2021
I'm encouraged by the number of employees who have gotten vaccinated as the deadline approaches and optimistic that will continue.
Breed said that 93 members of the police department, including 46 active-duty officers, have so far declined to get vaccinated. The police officers' union, the San Francisco Police Officers Association, tells ABC 7 that so far 40 officers have been placed on leave as of last Thursday, pending their hearings.
"To clarify here, employees are paid during the due process hearing until a determination is made upon their employment status," Breed said.
The Police Officers Association issued an unhelpful statement saying, "San Francisco is experiencing a shooting and retail theft epidemic and fewer officers will only make things worse."
We know that as of two weeks ago, there were around 300 Muni drivers and light-rail operators who remained unvaccinated, but that number likely went down as the mid-October deadline to get a single Johnson & Johnson shot approached — rendering them fully vaccinated by the November 1 cutoff. Still, the Muni system can't really afford to have that many operators on leave while they have hearings for exemptions, so we've been warned to expect Muni service disruptions in the coming weeks.
The Department of Public Health already denied a "religious" exemption request by Warriors player Andrew Wiggins — and he ultimately caved and got the J&J vaccine, while continuing to whine about being forced to do so or risk losing millions of dollars that he is being played to play a game.
Vaccine mandates like the one the City of San Francisco has instated have been so far successful in getting large portions of the working population of the U.S. vaccinated. United Airlines issued a mandate for its employees and the company said that all but 3% had voluntarily gotten their shots. Still, the minority have put up legal challenges, and a judge this month put the company's threat to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave on hold pending a decision on the legal merits.
Just today, Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Maine who are claiming religious exemptions from getting vaccinated.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images