Masks Again Part Of The Uniform As 59% Of Springfield Police Officers Are Not Vaccinated

On Feb. 26, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams proudly shared a photo to his Twitter account of him holding his COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, stating that he had received his first and second shot. 

Police officers were among the first groups eligible to receive the vaccine because their job necessitates a lot of face-to-face encounters with members of the public. And it’s hard to socially distance when arresting someone. 

But five months later, most of Williams’ officers have not followed in his footsteps.

According to the city of Springfield, 41 percent of Springfield Police Department officers have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Local health leaders have been pleading with people to get vaccinated this summer as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a surge in hospitalizations in the Springfield area.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Springfield has exceeded the previous peak this past winter, and 27 people died from the virus last weekend. Hospital leaders say the vast majority of those hospitalized have been unvaccinated. 

On July 1, Chief Williams made the decision that Springfield police officers and professional staff are required to wear face masks when interacting with others. There is an exception, however, for fully vaccinated officers.

Recruiting struggles, plus some retirements, left the Springfield Police Department with 44 vacancies as of late June. The Delta variant could further impact how many officers are available for duty on a police force that is already stretched thin.

As of Friday, the city reported that two Springfield police officers were out with active positive COVID-19 cases, and another three were in quarantine. 

The vaccination rate among Springfield Police Department officers essentially mirrors the vaccination rate of Greene County residents 12 and older, which sat at almost 42 percent on Friday, according to the health department’s website. 

A Washington Post article from May cited many reasons police officers across the country have given for not wanting to get the vaccine, like concerns about how quickly the vaccines were created, a feeling that getting COVID-19 in the past gave them immunity, and a sense that they were already protected thanks to masks and other measures. The Post was not aware of any police departments mandating vaccines for officers.

Officer Andy Zinke, president of the Springfield Police Officers Association (the union representing officers with the rank of sergeant and below), said Friday that SPOA supports every member’s right to choose regarding the vaccine. He said that most Springfield officers are against getting the vaccine, at least until it is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Hospital leaders and health experts in Springfield have reiterated that the vaccines have been proven safe and effective with hundreds of millions of doses administered. Furthermore, they say getting COVID-19 in the past or wearing a mask does not protect someone from being sickened with COVID-19 as effectively as the vaccine.


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