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Public safety departments have highest numbers of unvaccinated San Diego city workers

San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.

More than 11,000 people work for the City of San Diego, and all of them must be fully vaccinated by December 1 to comply with the city’s mandate — or be dismissed.

Nearly 20% of the city’s staff is confirmed as unvaccinated.

Dan Eaton, a legal analyst who practices employment law says the city's mandate is legal. "The city can actually condition continued employment on getting vaccination. That’s the bottom line," he told KPBS, adding this may not protect the city from a mass exodus. "There is a risk that, not only with respect to public safety but also with respect to a variety of other city functions, that some employees are going to choose resistance to vaccination over continuing to work for the city."


Four departments in the city have the highest number of unvaccinated people. The largest number of unvaccinated was in the police department, at 37%. Manual and skilled workers followed at almost 29%, and the fire department and the city’s lifeguards are essentially tied at just over 16%.

All of this comes on the heels of Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA , suspending their Emergency Temporary Standard that states private companies with 100 or more employees must require vaccination or weekly testing. An appeals court says that rule it needs judicial review.

Eaton says that decision has no bearing on the city's mandate. "The stuff that is going on at the federal level with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t really have very much to do what is going on at a state and local level," he said.

Public safety departments have highest numbers of unvaccinated San Diego city workers

But he added that it does create confusion. "When you look at how fluidly this coronavirus has progressed since its inception, it’s been moving faster than the speed of law. And because of that, if you’re not confused about what you can and cannot do, whether you’re an employer or an employee, you’re just not paying attention," he said.

Eaton said utlimately, whether or not the federal mandate holds, private and city employers have the right to create their own mandates as a condition of employment.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.