MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Miami’s police chief and the mayor of Miami Beach are both speaking out about the need for officers and city employees to get vaccinated.
The comments are timely as President Joe Biden on Thursday spoke about new requirements for federal employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine.READ MORE: Parkland first responder weighs in on Uvalde massacre: ‘It’s gut wrenching’
Police Chief Rene Landa said new figures show that 40 percent of his officers are unvaccinated. He told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that while 34 officers are vaccinated, 22 of them are not.
“We have been looking at numbers that are going up and up,” said Landa, who is also President of the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police. Landa also was fully vaccinated in March but suffered a breakthrough infection in July that robbed him of his sense of smell, made him very tired and kept him out of work for more than a week.
Landa said, “In Florida alone, we have 27 officers this year who have been killed in the one of duty and 18 of those are COVID related. Nationwide we have had 219 officers killed in the line of duty and 132 of them were from COVID, the leading cause of death.”
“Vaccines are for the safety of our officers,” he said. “That is our number one priority. You are out there with the community and you have to protect the community. But on a personal level, it is to make sure our officers are safe and their families are safe because they are going home at the end of the day. I don’t want them to have any problems not being vaccinated and getting COVID.”
Many officers are not getting vaccinated and are not required to be inoculated.
Steadman Stahl, the President of the South Florida Police Benevolent Association, said “As a person, Steadman Stahl, I had my vaccine and I encourage people to get vaccinated. But it is the fear of the unknown that most young officers are concerned about.”
Stahl said, “I think when you are getting injected with something that is a personal decision and it should be up to the officers to make that decision and it is something that should be between the union and employers.”READ MORE: Residents fed up with Biscayne Bay parties
On Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber said unvaccinated employees have to be tested every week and said any employee hired after August 25th would have to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
“In the first week of testing, we had 8 employees who were positive and 8 in the second week of testing and 3 employees in the third week of testing,” said Gelber.
“We are very sensitive to keeping our community and our workers safe,” said Gelber. “We are seeing deaths regularly in Dade County and what is tragic is not simply the deaths but they are almost all undercard. Almost 90 percent of people who are hospitalized and dying and people who are unvaccinated. So we all need to get people vaccinated to protect people.”
In Fort Lauderdale, city employees are not required to be vaccinated.
Mayor Dean Trantalis said, “We, unfortunately, have less than half of our people vaccinated and we are doing everything we can to incentivize people to get vaccinated especially our first responders but again it is about education and trust and the most important thing is to make sure it happens.”
Trantalis was asked if the city could require all employees to get vaccinated.
He said, “If we could we would but as you know the state government does not allow us to do that so we are doing our best to work within the parameters defined by state government and trying to keep everyone safe.”MORE NEWS: 'Hidden Worlds': An immersive voyage into deepest oceans & mesmerizing mangroves through state-of-the-art technology
On August 5th, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that all county employees would have to show proof of COVID vaccinations or submit to weekly tests.