Nov 8, 2021 - COVID

Polk County Sheriff's Office employees to get vaxxed or test weekly

Illustration of a hand holding a starting pistol with the barrel as a syringe.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Polk County Sheriff's Office employees will participate in a program that mandates they show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or be tested weekly, department spokesperson Lt. Ryan Evans told Axios Friday.

Driving the news: Polk County's administrator John Norris warned Sheriff Kevin Schneider last week that his department could face budgetary consequences for not following the county's vaccine-or-test mandate that began Sept. 30, the Des Moines Register reports.

  • Schneider issued a statement Friday calling the warning "irresponsible rhetoric and behavior" and an attempt "to hold the public safety budget hostage."

By the numbers: About 46% of the department's 519 employees have been vaccinated, according to county data provided to Axios Friday.

  • In comparison, more than 67% of the county's total 1,562 employees have been vaccinated

What they're saying: Testing for the Sheriff's Office has been complicated because it's a 24/7 operation and some workers aren't on shift during normal test times, Evans told Axios.

  • A union grievance linked with the mandate is also a "significant hurdle" that must be resolved before fully implementing the policy, Schneider said in Friday's statement.

Between the lines: It's Norris' job to nag. He's simply trying to get the department into compliance with a rule set by supervisors.

  • But it's also Schneider's job to work with the union and help the county avoid unnecessary litigation.

What's ahead: The Sheriff's Office will launch their own testing program in coming weeks.


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