San Francisco declares vaccine booster mandate for police and firefighters
Mayor London Breed orders shots by Feb. 1 due to COVID Omicron
Liberal San Francisco is leading the country with a vaccine booster mandate for first responders. Both the Fire and Sheriff’s Departments sent letters to their employees this week to order them to get a third COVID vaccine by Feb. 1.
Catch up on the San Francisco vaccine mandate forcing firefighters out of work in my story here. And read my story about DC firefighters who are about to get fired for being unvaccinated here.
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The booster order came down from Mayor London Breed, who has big staffing problems from vaccinated city workers with Omicron.
"The booster mandate makes absolutely zero sense,” a San Francisco firefighter who asked for anonymity said. “The department is already 100% vaccinated. Clearly, vaccines don't stop the spread of the virus. What makes them think the booster will?”
The answer to his question remains unclear, although I’ve been asking everybody involved.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office (SFSO) sent an internal letter (attached at the bottom for paid subscribers) to all its members on Monday that said:
To address the surge in cases do the Omicron variant, the Health Officer has determined that all people working in designated High-Risk Settings be both vaccinated and boosted as soon as they are eligible.
I asked the sheriff’s spokesman, Christian Kropff, about the purpose of the booster for law enforcement. “The mandate was set by the Department of Public Health, not by the SFSO,” said Kropff. “It is the San Francisco Sheriff's Office policy to comply with all public health orders set by the city.”
The San Francisco Firefighter Local 798 wrote its members on Tuesday about the booster mandate. (The letter is attached at the bottom for paid subscribers.)
We went all 798 members to know that your Executive board is aware of this issue and realize that this mandate is again cause for concern for many in our department. The last two years have been extremely hard for all of our members and their families.
The union leaders did not justify the mandate in any way, other than an order. They said they continue to be in talks with city leaders, the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) administration, other labor unions, and their attorneys about “this latest health order.”
Next, I asked the Fire Department spokesman, Lt. Jonathan Baxter, about the purpose of the booster mandate. He said the San Francisco Department of Human Resources is handing all the COVID media questions. So, I emailed Chief of Policy Mawuli Tugbenyoh, but he did not respond.
Baxter also sent me the photo of himself- above- from Tuesday. He noted that he’s been vaccinated three times and tests every two weeks. His test result was negative.
As I wrote yesterday, the unvaccinated firefighters who have been forced out of a job were told that regular testing instead of a vaccine was too much of a burden on the department.
I asked the San Francisco Police Department spokesman, Officer Robert Rueca, if they had sent a letter to its officers about getting a booster and what was the purpose of the mandate. He told me to contact the Department of Public Health “to confirm the letters regarding booster.” I asked for a contact name but didn’t get one. I emailed the general news media address. No response.
Since Mayor Breed made this booster mandate policy, I assume she has a public health reason for it.
The latest order on Dec. 29 is the 10th change to the city’s vaccine mandate since it went into effect last June. San Fran tried to rebrand it as “a Safer Return Together”, but it’s still just a vaccine mandate for staying employed. Here’s the front page of it:
The mandate says the reason for the booster for first responders is:
People working in these high-risk settings (1) can expose highly vulnerable people who are at increased risk of severe illness and death to COVID-19, (2) must therefore be protected from COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible to ensure adequate staffing in these critical settings, and (3) particularly for jails, shelters, and skilled nursing facilities, can cause large outbreaks if workers are infected.
So the city assumes that first responders with boosters 1) reduce transmission of the virus compared to the two-shot vaccinated (2) are less likely to catch the virus and miss work, and (3) less likely to spread it to people in jail.
A firefighter who has antibodies from getting COVID last summer said, “When do some start asking the question: Why does the virus primarily spread through the vaccinated?” (The DC firefighters with natural immunity said the same thing.)
He added, “Clearly this is not about public safety. Honestly, I really don't know what all this is about."
Unfortunately, the mayor did not clear up what this is all about in her tweets on Tuesday. She tried to calm the public by saying that the Omicron surge is manageable.
“Right now we’re learning to live with COVID,” she wrote.
However, she said that the city has to deal with the “short-term challenges with staffing levels for frontline workers.” Her twitter plan is to get the public not to go anywhere that is not necessary. But this is not a shutdown! Just a request to do nothing:
Prioritize the activities that are most important to you and avoid those that aren’t necessary and might expose you to COVID.
The mayor said doing nothing will “prevent too many frontline workers from getting sick at the same time.” The mayor does not make explain her link between people staying home and city staffing shortages.
Also, it’s unclear if the people who the mayor calls “frontline workers” are fire and police. She lumps them together with “critical operations” and “transit.” I emailed her press office and asked if the mayor calls police officers and firefighters “frontline workers”, but no one responded.
Shut out of the city’s leadership for answers, I asked an unvaccinated San Francisco firefighter what he thinks about the mayor’s COVID policies.
“I think there is a coordinated effort among Democrat-led cities to give the impression that they are helping, even when they're not,” he said. “The health and safety efficacy is not producing the expected results and governments are not really able to deliver.”
Back to the new booster mandate, what does forcing firefighters and police officers to get a third shot do for public safety?
“You have to remember, Emily,” he said. “Here in San Francisco, it’s cuckoo town.”
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