San Diego COVID emergency to end in Feb., vaccine mandate in March

The City of San Diego’s vaccine mandate for its employees will end on March 9.

Almost three years after it was first instated, San Diego’s COVID-19 State of Emergency will come to an end on Feb. 28.

On Tuesday, San Diego City Council voted unanimously to take this step, along with ending its controversial vaccine mandate for city employees.

The City of San Diego’s decision to end its COVID state of emergency on Feb. 28 will align the city with both the county and the state.

City leaders say that a sharp reduction in case numbers locally has enabled San Diego to take this step.

“For most people on the ground, things won’t look that different,” said San Diego City Council Member Marni von Wilpert, who had helped lead the city’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Committee. Von Wilpert said that the state of emergency enabled city leaders to make critical decisions surrounding the COVID crisis faster, and more nimbly, and to acquire state and federal funding and resources more quickly.

She also pointed to the city’s vaccine requirement for employees, which will also sunset, as effective and successful.

City employees were also able to apply for religious and medical exemptions, which about 1,000 workers received.

“Ninety-one percent of the city work force has been vaccinated, has stayed healthy and been able to come to work every day,” von Wilpert told CBS 8. “It has protected us, protected the city, protected our residents and protected each others’ colleagues.”

“Today was an amazing day, a historic day,” said Amy Reichert, co-founder of Re-open San Diego, which sued the city in federal court over its vaccine mandate.

“We were seeing what it was doing to our police, our firefighters and our dispatchers, people were leaving the city in droves,” Reichert added. “They were retiring instead of going through the vaccine mandate.”

The head of San Diego’s Police Officer’s Association (SDPOA) said that 130 members of its force opted to leave the San Diego Police Department specifically because of the vaccine mandate.

“Losing that 130 officers has been incredibly devastating,” said Sgt. Jared Wilson, SDPOA president. “Now they can return if they want to. However, a lot of these people have picked up and left.”

Wilson, speaking on behalf of the SDPOA, said that this loss of officer translates to a loss in public safety.

“We lost a huge amount of experience,” Wilson told CBS 8. “We’re glad this is finally over, we can put this behind us, but there’s been a lot of damage.”

Von Wilpert said that she believes the city remains in safe hands.

“I think the San Diego Police Department, along with the Fire-Rescue Department, our paramedics and our life guards have worked tremendously hard through the pandemic,” she added. “They couldn’t take 911 calls on Zoom. They all really put their lives on the line.”

Even with the state of emergency soon ending, city leaders also emphasized that people are still vulnerable to COVID, stressing the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted.

While the COVID state of emergency is set to expire on Feb. 28, the city’s vaccine mandate will officially end on March 9. That’s because the San Diego City Council must formally approve the mandate’s repeal a second time at an upcoming meeting.

The vaccine mandate repeal then takes effect 30 days after that final vote.

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