EXCLUSIVE: D.C. Mayor backs off vaccine mandate, boosters for firefighters
But she won't admit it publicly
Note to readers: This is part 5 in the series of Washington, D.C. firefighters and the vaccine mandate.
You read the first exclusive interview D.C. Fire Captain Mike Engels when he went public in December about D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s COVID vaccine mandate hurting the city’s ability to respond to emergencies. After my story was published, Engels was asked to be a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox, watch here.
Two weeks ago, I told you in part 4 of the series that Engels was about to get axed and lose his 21-year career as a firefighter for refusing to get vaccinated. The city denied his religious exemption request. He appealed but wasn’t hopeful. Well, now I’ve got some great news that Mayor Bowser doesn’t want you to know…
Captain Engels texted me on Monday: “Received my approval today.”
He was referring to the city allowing him to stay on the job and not get COVID vaccines. Other unvaccinated firefighters who I’ve met through reporting on this issue got the same last-minute reprieve this week.
On top of that, a source sent me a secret “special order “ (uploaded below) from Fire Department Chief John Donnelly that is titled: “Delay of COVID-19 Booster Enforcement.”
The chief wrote in the internal order that the District will stop forcing firefighters to get the third vaccine shot because it’s necessary for “operational readiness.”
I called Engels. Is this really the end of vaccine mandates?
“The vaccine mandate is still there. They reserve the right to bring it back any time, but the genie is out of the bottle,” he said.
I checked with Will Jones, who you remember from part 2 is a leader of the unvaccinated firefighters. Jones said he got his religious exemption approved after appealing through his law firm Siri and Glimstad.
“As far as I'm aware, everyone else who has followed the appeal process has gotten approved so far,” Jones said.
It sure seems this is the end of the vaccine mandate. I emailed all the press spokespeople for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city health department:
I am writing about the mayor's decision to delay booster mandate enforcement for firefighters and approve the appeals for vaccine mandate.
Has the mayor decided that the vaccines are no longer necessary for public health? Would you like to comment on the new policy?
They didn’t respond.
Next, I emailed the spokeswoman for the fire department. I got her out of the office. I followed up with the person who is supposedly taking over her duties:
I'm writing about the mandate delay for boosters and about a bunch of guys getting their appeals for religious exemption approved suddenly.
What has changed for the fire department vaccine mandate now?
No reply from either of them. What’s the big secret?
After my story was published and I tweeted at the Mayor, I got this response from DC Fire:
Nothing has changed for the Department. As we have said from the beginning, the Department would follow the process laid out by Mayor Bowser.
Following this process, some exemptions were approved and some were not, dependent on the facts and the law.
The delay of enforcement of the booster order was in accordance with the City Administrator’s order, which is attached to this email.
I uploaded the April 13 “order” below that was sent to the chief of police, fire and other first responders. It says they are “authorized to delay enforcement of the mandate” for booster shots.
Well, they are really digging in on making sure they don’t admit the mandate is kaput.
I checked the mayor’s website, social media and all her health orders on COVID (link in sources.) Bowser hasn’t posted anything new about the vaccine
I looked up the Fire Department special orders online, but it hasn’t been updated since 2013 (really, look at it below.)
Why won’t the politicians tell the public that the firefighters can stay on the job?
“I knew they would never say they were wrong because they don’t think they are wrong. They just think they lost — for now,” said Engels.
“We are in the heart of politics in Washington, D.C. This is all about the ego of politicians and admitting you’re wrong is not part of their equation.”
It was looking so dire for the firefighters losing their jobs a couple of weeks ago, so why the sudden change?
“I attribute this to the hundreds of us who have stood strong for our sincerely held religious beliefs from the beginning,” Jones told me on Wednesday.
“I believe that inspired hundreds more to take a stand for their beliefs, and the department knows, with the numbers who are now refusing the booster, that it's unenforceable at this point.“
As I reported in part 3, most of the firefighters who had gotten the first two-series vaccines refused to get the mandated boosters.
Engels said, “It shows strength in numbers works when enough people coalesce. The guys were intimidated into getting those first vaccines but the booster mandate won’t be enforced because they would have to get rid of more than half of the fire department.”
I asked Engels how it felt to have fought for almost a year against the city’s vaccine mandate at the risk of losing his career.
“I was the punk rocker, libertarian, Rage Against the Machine Guy — that was just my upbringing,” he said. “If enough people coalesce and are not intimidated, they are potent.”
Dr. Fauci slipped and said the pandemic is over….
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