Booster Deadline in Santa Clara County Could Impact Emergency Response Times

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The deadline has arrived for workers in Santa Clara County to show proof of a COVID-19 booster shot in order to continue working in high-risk settings such as health care and emergency response.

The firefighters union has warned that the mandate could impact response times as dozens of unvaccinated or unboosted firefighters may be forced to other duties.

The requirement taking effect Tuesday states that workers in "high-risk settings" must be boosted or reassigned to lower-risk work. The alternative is modified work or unpaid leave.

As of Jan. 10, 96% of the San Jose Fire Department’s employees were vaccinated, according to the city. That is 634 sworn fire personnel.

In the Santa Clara County Fire Department, 40 firefighters asked the department to seek waivers on their behalf. Individual workers cannot request waivers themselves.

The county department's message reads in part: "The mandate, as it is currently being enforced, will incur an additional loss of over 40 employees and worsen an already critical staffing shortage putting our firefighters and residents at risk."

The city of San Jose has not released updated numbers for the police department, but in November, of the city's entire workforce, only six employees were on track to take unpaid leave rather than get vaccinated. The city did not specify how many of those are police officers, citing privacy policies.

In recent weeks, SJPD had all officers pitching in to cover patrol shifts because so many officers were out with active COVID cases or quarantine requirements.

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