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Thursday is Denver's COVID vaccine mandate deadline for city employees

On Oct. 1, city and county employees who remain unvaccinated or do not have an exemption could be put on a 10-day unpaid suspension and could face termination.

DENVER — The deadline for city and county of Denver employees to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get an exemption, is Thursday.

The public health order requires more than 10,000 members of the city's municipal workforce in certain jobs such as law enforcement or education to be vaccinated. Firefighters and workers in congregate settings like nursing homes and shelters are also required to be vaccinated under the order.

Under the health order, which was put in place by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) on Aug. 2, the employees face termination if they do not provide proof of vaccination by end of Thursday.

According to Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson, employees who have not submitted proof of vaccination or an exemption approval by Oct. 1, they will be considered non-compliant. 

"Oct. 1, each agency will receive a list of non-compliant employees and through work with our office they will issue discipline letters and [set] hearings," Bronson said. 

Employees could face an unpaid 10 day suspension if they agree to come into compliance or begin to comply within that time period. 

But they could also be terminated if they never get vaccinated or an exemption approval. 

Departments across the city say they have been developing contingency plans because they anticipate some employees could be fired for not complying.

“Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective and they are our way out of the pandemic," DDPHE Executive Director Bob McDonald said. "Denver’s vaccine requirement is necessary and will help ensure hospital capacity isn’t jeopardized, kids can stay in school for in-person learning and ultimately, to save lives."

Earlier this month, 9NEWS partnered with The Denver Gazette and SurveyUSA to poll 500 Coloradans on COVID-related issues.

Generally, the respondents felt city and county workers should have to get vaccinated to keep their jobs, but it varied depending on what field the employee was in.

The full results of our survey are available here.

RELATED: New poll shows anger, frustration toward the unvaccinated

On Wednesday, a judge dismissed a case from attorneys for seven Denver Police Department (DPD) officers who filed a lawsuit arguing that the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is invalid.

The lawsuit argued DDPHE and McDonald didn't have the property authority to issue the health order. Mayor Michael Hancock (D-Denver) and DPD Chief Paul Pazen were also named in the lawsuit. 

RELATED: Judge dismisses challenge to Denver’s vaccine mandate

The judge cited a lack of subject matter when granting a motion from the defense to dismiss the case.

Hancock released the following statement after the case was dismissed: 

“The judge’s ruling confirms this mandate is an appropriate way to protect the health and safety of city employees and workers in high-risk settings throughout Denver. This is about saving lives, and we’re grateful to the 94 percent of city employees who are complying with the vaccine public health order. Our city employees have always put service to their community first, and they have demonstrated that once again by getting vaccinated."

Attorney Randy Corporon, who represents the officers, says he still plans to take this even further. 

“The judge basically left us one course of action, and that is to proceed to file a petition against DDPHE and we intend to do that," Coporon said. "We’ve got a pretty short window to get that done."

If the petition is successful, Corporon says the health order could be rescinded or revised. He also believes the officers could get their jobs back or be compensated. If it fails, they can file another lawsuit. One officer has already filed for retirement. 

Next Question: Can employees who refuse vaccination get unemployment?

RELATED: Yes, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for on-duty law enforcement officers so far in 2021

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