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108 unvaccinated Santa Barbara deputies still not testing | Page 2

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

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Eight weeks after Santa Barbara issued a vaccine or testing mandate for all county workers, 108 unvaccinated sheriff’s deputies have still not submitted for weekly testing, according to data from the county’s human resources department. The group makes up 37 percent of the sheriff’s office’s 292 “law enforcement deputies,” most of whom are on patrol duty. However, the department’s 250 “custody assistants” at the main prison are either vaccinated or actively tested, according to the data.

Recalcitrants remain concerned about the privacy of their medical information, said Joe Pisano, employee relations manager at human resources. They are not comfortable with the amount of information they are asked to provide, he explained, as well as with their security when it is collected, as well as their test results, by a outside testing company and ultimately shared with the California Department of Public Health. There have also been concerns that the company, which has a former technology executive among its directors, will attempt to monetize the information in some way. “I don’t share those concerns, but I understand them,” Pisano said.

Pisano said he has met almost weekly since September with members of the Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA) union, which represents 94 of the untested deputies. “It’s just a tough question,” he said. Not all members may be as convinced of the issue as their DSA leaders, he said, “but they tend to band together.” It’s also unclear when the county will decide to take a tougher stance, Pisano continued, but he’s hopeful the negotiations will end before disciplinary action is needed. “We’re not trying to stress people out,” he said. Changing test company can be one of the solutions.

Supervisor Das Williams, who had considerable support from the DSA in the recent election, said he was “impatient” for talks to end and the swab to begin. Sheriff Bill Brown pushed back against the characterization that deputies simply refuse to be tested. “‘Deny’ is really not an accurate description of what’s going on,” he said. Complicating matters is the fact that the DSA is in separate negotiations with the county over its 2022 employment contract.

DSA Chairman Sergeant. Neil Gowing blamed the heist primarily on scheduling issues. “Most delays are simply due to scheduling dates that allow all parties to sit down, talk and work out the details,” he said. “But we are making good progress.” Gowing said the DSA will continue to work with the county to “work out all the details as soon as possible, while being careful not to neglect our duties and our oath to the members of the community we serve and the victims we defend.” ”

Meanwhile, Santa Barbara County is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases amid the winter holidays and the spread of the Omicron variant. Active cases have increased by 6% over the past two weeks, while the daily case rate per 100,000 unvaccinated residents has increased from 16.6 to 24.1. Hospitalizations increased by 34% during the same period and admissions to intensive care increased by 120%. Statewide, the daily average for new infections has increased 50% since Thanksgiving.

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