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Denver receives hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine waivers for city and county employees, grants most

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Posted at 9:36 PM, Sep 08, 2021

DENVER — Some have called it cutting edge, while others have clearly labeled it controversial.

More than a month ago Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a mandatory vaccine requirement for city employees with a Sept. 30 deadline. The announcement brought applause from some and objection from others.

“We are committed to keeping businesses and the economy open,” Hancock said at the time of the announcement.

He said more people vaccinated is the key to shutting down the virus.

The city also gave employees the opportunity to receive waivers for the vaccine. Last week was the deadline for city employees to ask for a waiver based on either medical or religious reasons.

Denver is one of the first cities in the state and the country to step forward with the vaccine mandate for city employees.

“Our goal is compliance,” Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson said. “We are blazing a bit of a new ground here, but we feel very confident we have the legal foundations for the orders we are issuing.”

Bronson’s team of attorneys has spent the past several weeks wading through several hundred waiver requests from city employees.

“It’s a case-by-case basis. You need to make a legitimate case for an exemption, either medical or religious, and so we are reviewing those on a case-by-case basis,” Bronson said.

Denver7 Investigates requested records showing the number of Denver firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s department employees who requested the vaccine waivers. Numbers provided as of midday Wednesday, Sept. 8 show the following:

Applied for vaccine waiver

  • Denver Sheriff’s Department: 67 requests
  • Denver Fire Department: 111 requests
  • Denver Police Department: 199 requests

Waiver breakdown by category

Denver Sheriff’s Department

  • Medical: 2 requests
  • Religious: 60 requests
  • Both: 5 requests

Denver Fire Department

  • Medical: 5 requests
  • Religious: 101 requests
  • Both: 5 requests

Denver Police Department

  • Medical: 24 requests
  • Religious: 167 requests
  • Both: 8 requests

After reviewing applications for several days, Denver’s City Attorney has granted 223 waiver requests and has denied eight requests. The city attorney’s office has at least 146 applications yet to review.

The current data means at least eight employees who requested a waiver and were denied now must either get the vaccine or suffer potential consequences.

“If they flatly refuse to come into compliance at all, we will have no choice but to move forward with discipline,” Bronson said.

When asked if that means firing, Denver’s city attorney confirmed it meant termination.

Sept. 30 is the deadline for all city employees to either receive a waiver or come into compliance with the vaccine mandate. Denver’s city attorney said she expects a lot of extra hours for her staff to review all the remaining waiver requests.