COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued for Colorado prison workers, other state employees

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — Thousands of Colorado state workers are now being told to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or find a new job.

Most staff members with Colorado’s Departments of Corrections, Human Services and Public Health and Environment will now be required to receive the vaccine or face termination, according to a mandate released Tuesday.

The decision focuses primarily on staff members working in congregate settings or with vulnerable populations — like prisons — hoping to curb the spread of the delta variant.

Vaccination rates among corrections workers ‘not good enough’

Statewide, 66% of Coloradans are now fully vaccinated, yet only 58% of Colorado Department of Corrections staff members have received the vaccine.

“That’s just, quite frankly, not good enough,” DOC Executive Director Dean Williams said.

Williams said the congregate nature of state prisons has made them a hotbed for COVID-19 transmission, both among inmates and among staff.

To date, 29 inmates have died from COVID-19 inside a state facility, according to a corrections department spokesperson.

“People who live there, we have a duty to protect them as best we can,” Williams said. “We know that vaccinated staff are just profoundly less risky in terms of being responsible for an outbreak.”

‘This is a mandate’

Williams does anticipate some pushback, but he said the decision is final.

“We’re not issuing the directive as a suggestion,” he said. “This is a mandate.”

The corrections department has been struggling to fill jobs in recent months, and Williams admits there is some concern this could reduce an already depleted workforce.

“We’ve made this decision with eyes wide open, and we realize that some people will love this decision, and some people won’t,” he said. “I don’t want to lose staff because of this decision, but this really is a case of the lesser of two evils.”

Colorado’s corrections workers will have until the end of September to receive their first dose and until the end of October to be fully vaccinated.

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