D.C. Mayor ends COVID vaccine mandate for city employees after lawsuits from police and firefighters
Part 6- Mayor Muriel Bowser quietly rescinds COVID-19 vax after threatening termination for a year
This is part six in my series on the firefighters in Washington, D.C. who have been fighting the Mayor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Click here to start reading from part one on Christmas Eve 2021.
The Mayor of the District of Columbia quietly rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees that has been in effect since June 2021. The city website was updated on Sept. 14 to say that the decision was due to “higher levels of immunity and the increased availability of effective COVID-19 prevention and management tools.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s spokespeople did not respond to inquiries about the sudden health policy change, but it’s most likely in response to the D.C. police union winning a lawsuit against the city that made it illegal to enforce the vaccine.
Firefighters fought back
On Friday, D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly sent out a special order (below in sources for paid subscribers) that says “the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for Department employees has been rescinded”, effective Friday, Sept. 16.
“A lot of morale was destroyed, trust broken, and the fundamental structure of a department was severely damaged,” one unvaccinated D.C. firefighter told me after the special order came down. “We were right, they were wrong – and they damn well knew they were wrong.”
“We were right, they were wrong – and they damn well knew they were wrong.”
“I'm really proud of all of us who stood by our convictions throughout this whole ordeal in the face of disparate treatment and the threat of termination, unvaccinated firefighter Will Jones told me.
But he added that, “The city and department should be ashamed for threatening so many for something now obsolete.”
Unvaccinated firefighters – who worked overtime last Christmas when the department was short-staffed because their vaccinated colleagues had COVID – also have a pending lawsuit.
On condition of anonymity, one firefighter told me he had been speaking with other colleagues – vaccinated and unvaccinated – and emotions were running high.
“I feel frustrated, betrayed, emotionally strained by having to risk my job to fight something I knew was wrong and against my beliefs,” an unvaccinated firefighter said Friday night after the special order came down.
“I was forced to choose to fight to defend my beliefs and risk losing my ability to provide for my family or submit. All for something they had no intention of enforcing.”
You’ve been reading my stories all year about the hundreds of D.C. firefighters who refused to get vaccinated and put in exemption requests, mostly religious, but were in constant fear of losing their jobs. The city’s new policy now says:
Agencies should discontinue any religious accommodations granted pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, as they are no longer required.
The cost of mandates
Back in January, the Mayor added a requirement for city employees to get a booster shot with only a three-week deadline before being “subject to discipline” which leads to termination. I asked Bower’s office at the time for the purpose of getting booster shots that don’t stop infection nor spread. A spokeswoman for Mayor Bowser responded:
…. the District will take the best course of action to bring this pandemic to its end using vaccines and booster shots, which are proven to be safe and highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even with the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 Delta and Omicron variants.
Her spokesman also said that “vaccination is the single most effective way of preventing serious illness and death” but would not answer why police and firefighters needed to be vaccinated to work.
In March, I wrote about the Mayor moving forward in the termination process for the firefighters by denying their requests for religious exemptions. The firefighters thought that they were about to lose their careers.
I asked the mayor’s office at the time – and they refused to answer –why she would fire employees when the science showed that vaccines don’t stop the spread of the virus.
Also, I asked Bowser’s aides why they were going to terminate only the unvaccinated since the vaccinated were more likely to be causing the staffing shortage with their first bout of the virus. These logical questions remain unanswered and the men and women affected …