Nearly 200 S.F. police staff want religious exemptions for city’s COVID-19


Nearly 200 employees in the San Francisco Police Department applied for a religious exemption to the city’s employee vaccine mandate, the highest number of waiver requests from any city department, by far.

About 90.9% of the city’s 35,140-person workforce is fully or partially vaccinated — but 2,706 employees, or 7.7%, still have not been vaccinated and about 1.4% — 489— haven’t reported their status

The rules require employees who work in high-risk settings, like police officers, to be vaccinated by Oct. 13. All other employees must be fully inoculated by November.

In the 2,835-member police department, 366 employees are unvaccinated. Of the unvaccinated, 193 want religious exemptions and eight have requested medical exemptions. The others have not requested any waivers.

The Department of Human Resources said 157 exemptions have been tentatively approved, but officials are still reviewing the requests.

San Francisco was the first large city in the country to require all its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, unless they have a valid religious or medical exemption.

Even if waivers are accepted, unvaccinated employees could still be reassigned to another role, put on leave, asked to work from home — or let go from their jobs — if they continue to refuse the shot, according to the Department of Human Resources.

That’s because some jobs, like being a police officer, can’t be performed from behind a desk or online. And if unvaccinated police officers continue to interact with those in the community, they could put themselves or others at risk, the department said.

“The only way out of the pandemic and to protect our workers, is to ensure that as many people as possible are vaccinated against COVID-19,” Mawuli Tugbenyoh, chief of policy for the Department of Human Resources, said in a statement. “The damage that COVID-19 has done to our communities, health and livelihoods is now preventable.”

Police Chief Bill Scott, shown in a file photo, said eight employees in the department refused to report their vaccination status and going through

Police Chief Bill Scott, shown in a file photo, said eight employees in the department refused to report their vaccination status and going through “due process,” which includes a hearing on the potential suspension.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

In total, the Department of Human Resources has received 296 religious exemption requests and 21 medical exemption requests from city employees. That includes 34 religious exemption requests from the sheriff’s department, 16 from the fire department, six from the Department of Public Health, and even one from Mayor London Breed’s office.

The deadline arrives as San Francisco’s coronavirus case numbers come down from the worst of its summer surge, fueled by the delta variant. Nearly 80% of the eligible population has at least one dose, but officials are still scrambling to vaccinate the hold-outs as data shows that the vaccines are extremely safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19.

Employees may not substitute weekly testing for a vaccine.



Read More: Nearly 200 S.F. police staff want religious exemptions for city’s COVID-19

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