The city of San Diego has stopped requiring employees to take weekly COVID tests, after firing eight employees who had previously refused to take the tests for religious reasons.
Any city employees, who refused COVID vaccines on religious grounds, were mandated to take weekly COVID tests, but San Diego dropped that requirement at the start of September, city spokesperson Nicole Darling said.
“Employees who received medical or religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement are no longer required to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing,” she said in an emailed statement.
Before the requirement was lifted, some employees had refused to take COVID tests, stating on official city forms that COVID testing was against their religion. Eight employees were fired for their refusals.
“The city reserves the right to reinstate the COVID-19 testing program at any time,” Darling said. “Employees who are in the discipline process as a result of failing to comply with city policy that was in place at the time will continue in that process. The city has a progressive discipline process that does not always end in termination; employees are afforded all due process rights and rights to representation.”
The change was made in part based on data that shows unvaccinated and vaccinated people transmit the virus at the same rate, Darling said. She added that more than 90% of city employees have received the original two doses of the COVID vaccine.
“The city’s COVID-19 Prevention Program is aimed at keeping our employees and the public safe, as well as minimizing disruptions to city services from sick and quarantined workers.” she said.
KPBS first reported in July the city would begin the process of firing employees who refused COVID vaccinations and COVID tests for religious reasons, arguing their Christian beliefs instructed them not to use testing swabs because they contain ethylene oxide. The chemical is a known carcinogen, but is not actually present on the swabs — it’s used as a gas to sterilize them. Medical and religious experts said the employees’ claims are groundless.