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Tampa's vaccine mandate for city workers is now in effect. So, is it working?

Vaccine compliance among Tampa’s 4,700 workers has climbed from around 40 percent to about 70 percent.

TAMPA, Fla — The September 30th deadline has now come and gone for all employees in the city of Tampa to get vaccinated.

So, has the vaccine mandate been effective?

“I would say that we should know within about a week,” said Mayor Jane Castor’s Chief of Staff, John Bennett.

Bennett says they are still collecting numbers from various department heads, but it looks as though vaccine compliance among Tampa’s 4,700 workers has climbed from around 40 percent in August when the policy was first announced, to about 70 percent now.

“You know, if somebody is trying to make this a scientific argument for a political argument, they are making a statement that has nothing but trying to comply with the policy,” said Bennett. “Because there are so many options to comply.”

Bennett says the city has exceptions for those with a valid medical or religious exemption. They can also prove they have anti-body immunity.

Other than that, workers who didn’t get the shot must wear N-95 masks while indoors, and present weekly COVID test results at their own expense.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom announces COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all eligible students in California

“I would challenge any employee in the city to have a conversation on how they could not have complied with this. It was made for everybody,” said Bennett.

The city says its vaccine policy won approval from three-fourths of its union members. As an incentive, the city said any worker who has complied with the policy and still gets COVID will be given additional time off to recover.

On Friday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office forwarded a letter from the city of Gainesville, saying city leaders there had backtracked on their vaccine mandate for city employees.

“If a government agency in the state of Florida forces a vaccine as a condition to employment, that violates Florida law,” Gov. DeSantis said.

The governor has threatened to fine cities that mandate vaccines up to $5,000 per worker.

Bennett says they believe Tampa’s exemptions and alternatives keep them on firm legal ground.

“I think that whatever strict order came out from anywhere that there are so many different opportunities to accommodate were options to select,” he said. “How could you not be in compliance?”

Bennett says there’s no intention to fire anyone over the policy, and since Castor’s announcement in August, he’s aware of only a handful of people quitting.

“I have heard in one or two departments of people rumbling that they may be leaving for this, but they may have been leaving for longevity and using this for just, you know, a more sort of – reason,” said Bennett.

Bennett says the city will reassess its policies after the beginning of the year. Hopefully, he says, COVID rates will have come down significantly by then.

In the meantime, unvaccinated workers who fail to wear a face-covering or submit those weekly test results could face discipline ranging from being sent home to progressively more severe consequences if someone takes what the city considers to be an unreasonable stand.

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