Detroit won't institute vaccine mandate for cops, first responders as COVID-19 surges

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click to enlarge Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday said he will not require city workers to get vaccinated. - City of Detroit
City of Detroit
Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday said he will not require city workers to get vaccinated.

As Mayor Mike Duggan urged Detroiters on Tuesday to get vaccinated for COVID-19, he said he has no plans to require vaccines for municipal employees, including police, firefighters, and other workers who have close contact with residents.

“There [are] absolutely no conversations about vaccines for union or civil service employees,” Duggan said. “I made an absolute promise to the union leaders in this city for the last year and a half that anything that we did we would do together sitting down and talking, and there has been no conservation about that at all and no plan for it.”

The city wouldn’t even divulge how many municipal employees are vaccinated. In June, only 39% of Detroit cops were inoculated.

Duggan’s unwillingness to institute a vaccine mandate for municipal workers may assuage vaccine-hesitant union workers, but it’s a risky concession that could hasten the spread of COVID-19 in a city that has the lowest vaccination rate in the state. Only 42.6% of residents 5 and older are vaccinated, compared to 66.8% in the rest of Wayne County, 70% in Oakland County, 69% in Washtenaw County, 59% in Macomb County, and 60% in Michigan.

Police, firefighters, and medics routinely come in close contact with residents, which is why cities such as Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia are requiring all municipal employees to get vaccinated. In those cities, vaccination rates increased as a result of the mandate.

Nearly 68,000 Detroiters — or more than 10% of the population — have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020, and the virus has killed at least 2,505 residents.

Michigan leads the country in new COVID-19 cases, and hospitals are reaching or exceeding capacity at an alarming rate.

Duggan acknowledged Tuesday that Michigan is “now at the center of the spread of COVID-19.”

“We still have in the city of Detroit a very low vaccination rate,” Duggan said.

Denise Fair Razo, the city’s chief public health officer, emphasized that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are “going in the wrong direction.”

"The ball is in our court to make sure that we stay protected,” she said.

A September Gallup poll found that 58% of people said they supported the federal vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. Labor unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have also come out to support the new rule because of the health risks facing employees.

For reasons that remain unclear, the federal mandate does not appear to cover municipal public-sector employees.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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