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COVID-19

After Two Austin Police Officers Die From COVID, Department Can Only Guess How Many Members Are Vaccinated

An Austin police officer passes a police cruiser.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Two Austin police officers died this week after contracting the coronavirus.

Two Austin police officers died this week from COVID-19, the first members of the department to die because of the disease. Another three dozen officers have tested positive for the virus.

“While many have had the blessing to be able to work from home, our employees continue to come into the workplace and go out in our community answering emergency calls for service and placing themselves in harms’ way for the benefit of our citizens,” APD Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said in a virtual news conference Friday.

Chacon would not say whether the officers who died this week, Senior Officer Randy Boyd and Sgt. Steve Urias, had been vaccinated.

And while other front-line city departments told KUT they are surveying employees about vaccination status, Chacon said his department had not, so he could not accurately say how many police employees had gotten vaccinated.

“It is not mandated and we don’t track,” he said. “We’re highly encouraging all of our employees to get vaccinated.”

But Chacon did wager an estimate, suggesting 50% to 60% of the department was fully vaccinated.

“But that is an estimate,” he said. “We don’t know for sure how many of the employees are vaccinated because we don’t require that and don’t require them to report it.”

Representatives for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, the Austin Fire Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Friday that they have surveyed their employees about COVID-19 vaccinations.

A spokesperson for EMS said by email that 88% of uniformed staff have been vaccinated, while a spokesperson for AFD said 78% of employees who responded to a survey are fully vaccinated.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order prohibiting municipalities from requiring people, including their employees, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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