Sep 30, 2021 - COVID

Denver braces for wave of exits over city employee vaccine mandate

Illustration a clock with a syringe for the minute hand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Time has run out.

Driving thew news: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s deadline has arrived for city workers and some "high-risk" private sector employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • As of Wednesday, Hancock’s office said more than 600 employees were still out of compliance. They could face 10 days of unpaid leave, and termination, if they fail to prove they’re vaccinated by today without a religious or medical exemption.

Why it matters: City officials are bracing for a wave of suspensions, layoffs and resignations in response to the mandate at a time when Denver’s sheriff and police departments — whose employees lag in compliance — are already understaffed.

  • Police chief Paul Pazen and sheriff Elias Diggins told city council members last week that both agencies have hemorrhaged staff amid the pandemic.

What they’re saying: "The progressive discipline process will begin Friday," city attorney Kristin Bronson told CBS4. "Letters about contemplations of discipline will go out within that first week or two, and hearings will be set."

Driving the news: A Denver District Court judge dismissed a last-minute lawsuit Wednesday filed by seven city police officers to block the mayor’s mandate.

  • The officers’ attorney, Randy Corporon, now plans to pursue an administrative complaint against Denver’s health department. Should it fail, he could file another lawsuit, the Denver Post reports.

State of play: At least 19 employees from the city’s police, sheriff and fire departments are resigning or retiring over the vaccine mandate, Andrea Webber, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, tells Axios.

  • Former Denver sheriff’s deputy Craig Greeno — who worked for the department for nearly a decade — recently quit over the mandate, saying it put him "over the edge."

Of note: The mayor’s proposal to reward vaccinated city employees with $400 bonuses was put on hold by the Denver City Council and will be heard again in a committee meeting on Oct. 5.

  • Hancock’s spokesperson, Mike Strott, tells Axios there will be "some tweaks" made to the proposal between now and then to address council members’ concerns.

The big picture: First responders — from firefighters to law enforcement members — are resisting vaccine and mask mandates nationwide.


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