Leesburg police, other first responders fear exodus if vaccine mandates are enforced

Vaccine mandates are a cause of concern for leaders from the region’s Metropolitan center to its suburbs.

Leesburg police officers are threatening to quit over COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and D.C. first responders are worried they will get fired if they refuse to comply with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s order.

READ MORE: DC Council pushes for COVID-19 vaccine mandate without testing option for school employees

The Town of Leesburg isn’t just a home to its 50,000 residents – it’s an employer. And like every employer in the country right now, they’re having to decide whether to mandate vaccines for their employees. And they’re getting an earful from those opposed.

"This decision has the potential to decimate LPD. Our town could lose a lot of amazing police officers," Leesburg police officer Josh Carter said at recent town council meeting where lawmakers were due to vote to approve a vaccine mandate.

That vote is now on hold until at least next week after seven officers threatened to leave the force rather than get the shot.

Meanwhile, Mayor Muriel Bowser is hearing similar complaints from first responders who are now required to be fully vaccinated as of last Thursday, unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption – and from public school employees who are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1.

READ MORE: Lawsuit filed to halt Montgomery County school employee vaccine mandate

"Because simply, some people are just not going to do it without having a religious reason or medical reason. They are just unwilling to be vaccinated. So I believe either way we still may have a large number of people that will exit DC public schools because of the mandate," said Robert Alston, D.C. public school employee.

"For individuals who do have those reasons, whether it's religious reasons or others that does not allow them to take the vaccine. Is it safer for the city to fire a couple hundred of those individuals or allow them to continue to provide negative tests," said D.C. firefighter Will Jones.

D.C. fire and EMS have 280 pending requests for medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate. Those are still being processed. No one has been fried for refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate as of Monday. In fact, 1,738 employees of the department have received the vaccine – which amounts to more than 85%.

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The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is encouraging all officers in Virginia to get vaccinated, reminding everyone the human cost of not getting the shot.

"We just really continue to educate our officers. We've unfortunately lost several officers, deputies, and troopers to COVID. And so as those deaths come about there's more concern about getting the vaccine, said Dana Schrad, the association’s executive director.