Negotiations Continue Between County and Deputies over COVID-19 Testing

This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Negotiations continue between the County of Santa Barbara and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), the employee union representing dozens of patrol deputies who have so far failed to comply with the county’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test policy. The Board of Supervisors adopted the mandate September 1, and it went into effect October 18.

As of Monday, 161 deputies had opted to receive weekly tests in lieu of getting their shots, but only 37 have registered to be tested, and none have actually been swabbed.

Sgt. Neil Gowing, president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), the employee union leading the negotiations, said the group still feels uncertain about the true “impacts and effects” of COVID-19 testing, including “how the tests are going to be implemented, which testing platform is going to be used, who is going to administer the tests, [and] what are the steps if there is a positive test.”

Gowing took issue with the characterization that the deputies are simply rejecting their weekly check-ups. “I can assure you, though, that none of our unvaccinated employees are refusing to test,” he said. While the order went into effect last month, he explained, “There are a lot of details that have to be worked out before implementation.”

Gowing hopes to have all of the union’s lingering questions answered “soon,” he said, describing the back-and-forth with officials as “vigorous.” “At the end of the day,” he said, “we want to do our part to help keep everyone safe, just as we do every day in our working capacity.” 

Supervisor Gregg Hart voiced frustration that talks with the DSA have dragged on for weeks with no end in sight. He noted all other county employee unions ― including those for firefighters, public works staff, social service departments, and others ― got on board with the mandate almost immediately after it was implemented last month. “I expect all county employees to have public health consequences at the forefront of their minds,” Hart said. Among the county’s entire 4,564-member workforce, 81.5 percent have been vaccine-verified.

Joseph M. Pisano, an employee relations manager with the county’s Human Resources Department, said noncompliance with the order isn’t in of itself illegal, as the mandate came in the form of a “policy” and didn’t actually amend the Santa Barbara County Code of Ordinances. Nevertheless, he explained, “The County has the ability to address noncompliance with the policy by working within the applicable Civil Service Rules that govern implementation of potential corrective disciplinary action.” Those actions may include suspension, demotion, or termination, the rules state. 

At the County Jail, where multiple COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred over the course of the pandemic, only 49 percent of custody deputies are vaccinated, data shows. Gowing said, however, that all unvaccinated custody deputies ― who are represented by a different union than the DSA ― have submitted to the required testing. Across the entire Sheriff’s Office, 62.4 percent of employees have received their shots.


Written by Tyler Hayden

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  1. just fire brown and the rest of the idiots that refuse this.
    you guys are on our dime. you signed up to protect and serve. you are not protecting anyone or serving anyone, therefore you are not doing your assigned duty.
    putting yourself, your coworkers and the public at risk so you can be macho cool guys eh? wrong. if i have to have all of that and follow regulations and requirements just to go into a damned store, these fools better get swabbed and mask up.

  2. ““I can assure you, though, that none of our unvaccinated employees are refusing to test,” he said.” — Ummmmm… that’s really exactly what they’re doing. If they’re not getting tested, it’s because they’re “refusing” to get tested. Jesus man. Someone put you in charge?

  3. SBMH, you missed a critical part of the equation. How often does everyone need to get vaccinated? There is a lot we don’t know about the vaccines yet, but it appears the vaccines are only good for a few months. The administration is talking about requiring booster shots to address the rapidly waning immunity provided by the vaccines. The definition of “fully vaccinated” will soon be updated to include a booster at the federal level, and a couple of states are looking at taking the lead by doing it sooner. Less than 20% of the population has had a booster at this point. I think we’re going to go from close to 70% “fully vaccinated” to 20% with the stroke of a pen.

  4. What really happened: An interest group made a FOIA request to the FDA for all data pertaining to the agency’s decision to approve the Pfizer vaccine. This data is about 395,000 pages long, so the FDA responded that to take out sensitive personal and proprietary information, a release would take years. The Facebook medical professionals responded: “tHeY wOnt reLeASe teh dAtA.”

  5. Cops, get vaccinated. Your job is to protect the community you serve, so we need you to be disease free so you don’t pass Covid or even a flu (you DO get a flu shot don’t you?) to the community you serve.
    Get vaccinated or get tested or resign and go to Texas or Florida where the politicians there don’t care.
    Sheriff’s Administration, hang tough, you have the right and duty to require either of those solutions.
    Sgt Gowing of the DSA said At the end of the day,” he said, “we want to do our part to help keep everyone safe, just as we do every day in our working capacity.”
    NO, ACTUALLY YOU DON’T WANT TO DO YOUR PART. Get vaccinated, get tested or leave.

  6. Remove the liability shield, disclose the ingredients & grant Full FDA approval to the BioNTech.
    Simple enough. If it is truly FDA approved, which the BioNTech is not. The FDA approval letter says it is similar to the Solti Ed Comirnaty but it is legally different. Then it is not legal to coerce people to take it.
    Remove the liability shield & give BioNTech full FDA approval. Simple enough.

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