According to the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM), dozens of troopers have submitted their resignation papers because of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Some have spoken with the human resources department to evaluate what their pensions would be if they choose to retire.
The state is requiring all executive department employees to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 17 or risk losing their jobs. About 20 percent of State Police employees are not vaccinated.
Last week, a judge denied a request from the State Police union to put a hold on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for troopers.
“Throughout COVID, we have been on the front lines protecting the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond. Simply put, all we are asking for are the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID-related illness as a line of duty injury,” SPAM says in a statement released following the judge’s decision.
Some troopers who have already submitted their resignation papers plan to return to other departments offering alternatives like mask-wearing and regular testing. (Related: 65% of San Diego’s police force might quit due to covid vaccine mandate.)
With the State Police critically short-staffed, troopers from specialty units that investigate homicides, terrorism, computer crimes, arsons, gangs, narcotics and human trafficking have been asked to return to uniformed patrol.
SPAM President Sgt. Michael Cherven says some of the troopers he represents may be recruited away from Massachusetts State Police if the mandate does not include some accommodations. The union has 1,800 members.
“They have opportunities to return to the municipal departments where they came from. There are opportunities outside of Massachusetts. New Hampshire and New Jersey state police associations have reached out,” says Cherven.
WBZ security analyst Ed Davis says State Police are already facing a staffing shortage for several reasons. “COVID is certainly one of them. There’s also the situation that occurred across the country after the George Floyd murder. Police are rethinking whether they want to stay in the business,” says Davis.
Baker has no intention to retract or modify the mandate. “I think it’s critically important for public officials who deal directly with the public on a regular basis, who have no idea whether the people their dealing with are vaccinated or not. And those people who are dealing with them ought to believe that they are vaccinated,” says Baker.
Many police officers and their unions oppose vaccine mandates
Many police officers and their unions are opposing vaccine mandates. John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the city’s rank-and-file officers, has made it clear that he does not intend to comply with vaccine mandates.
“It cannot be mandated. It’s that simple,” Catanzara tells the Chicago Sun Times. “Our members don’t want to be mandated to do anything like that.”
Catanzara’s remarks come after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s declaration that city employees will be required to get vaccinated. “We absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate,” says Lightfoot. “It’s for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis.”
Chicago’s vaccine mandate takes effect on Oct. 15, but Catanzara remains firm with his stance.
“This vaccine has no studies for long-term side effects or consequence,” he says. “To mandate anybody to get that vaccine without that data as a baseline, amongst other issues, is a ‘hell no’ for us.”
The same scenario is playing out in cities and towns across the country. Police unions in Tulsa, Seattle and Syracuse have pushed back against vaccination requirements.
Just days after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the city’s Department of Education employees must receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27, the city’s largest police union tells its members in an email that it would take legal action to defend their “right to make such personal medical decisions” if they face the same requirement.
A union spokesman has confirmed the contents of the email.
While it is not clear what percentage of officers across the country have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, vaccination rates in some of the largest police departments in the U.S. are below the national rate.
Chicago, which has the country’s second-largest force, does not track vaccinations. A police spokesman said in late August that only 47 percent of New York’s uniformed and civilian employees are vaccinated. (Related: Anti-vaccine mandate “Freedom Rally” in NYC draws in thousands of supporters.)
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, noted at the time that 79 percent of New York residents 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. “That means members of the police department are more vaccine-hesitant than the general population,” says Hotez.
Healthcare workers prefer losing their jobs than risking their lives
Many healthcare workers also prefer losing their jobs than risking their lives by taking the experimental COVID-19 vaccines.
Jerry Jasper, CEO of Brownfield Regional Medical Center in Texas, tells local news station KCBD that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers could lead to the facility being shut down. “Probably 20 to 25 percent of my staff will have to go away if that’s the case,” says Jasper.
As a hospital that services low-income and elderly people, Brownfield Regional Medical Center is dependent on Medicare and Medicaid. Biden’s vaccine mandate covers all employees of hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
According to the White House, the mandate applies “to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident or client care.” CMS refers to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“It’s huge in our rural community as all the other rural communities,” says Jasper, speaking of the Medicaid funding stream. “We all have high poverty levels and stuff like that, so a lot of Medicaid usage in our communities and stuff like that.”
Another Texas hospital CEO has said that the jab mandate could hurt his organization too, which is 70 percent vaccinated. “Well, it would be devastating for the community,” Seminole Hospital District CEO Larry Gray tells KCBD. “We have a large percentage of our revenue that comes from Medicare, Medicaid and those kinds of products.”
The Seminole Hospital District operates an assisted living home, a healthcare center and a hospital. “What happens to individual choice and medical decisions between the patient and their doctor, which is all of the things that we’re trying to support?” asks Gray.
In New York, Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville has shut down maternity services because dozens of staff members quit rather than get COVID-19 vaccines.
Lewis County General Hospital CEO Gerald Cayer says 165 out of the hospital’s 464 employees have not been vaccinated, and 30 formally resigned over the vaccine mandate. The maternity ward alone has had six resignations.
“We are not alone. There are thousands of positions that are open [in the northern part of the state] and now we have a challenge to work through, you know, with the vaccination mandate,” says Cayer. “Our hope is as we get closer [to the deadline], the numbers will increase of individuals who are vaccinated, fewer individuals will leave and maybe, with a little luck, some of those who have resigned will reconsider.”
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