- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2022

A D.C. judge has ruled that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate imposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser is unlawful, siding with a police union that challenged the rules as unfair and damaging to recruitment.

Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Ross said Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, lacked statutory authority to impose the requirement.

“It is undisputed that the mayor has a strong interest in combating the spread of COVID-19,” the Thursday order reads. “However, our system does not permit the mayor to act unlawfully even in the pursuit of desirable ends.”

The order says the mayor is permanently enjoined from imposing the mandate and that punished union members must be reimbursed for “any loss of benefits, pay, or rights and all related disciplinary proceedings to be expunged from their records.”

Officers and other city workers could qualify for a medical or religious exemption. The mayor did, however, eventually remove a testing opt-out for city workers and required nonexempt workers to get the shots by mid-February.

Officers in the nation’s capital and in other cities have complained that vaccine mandates are causing the force to miss out on new recruits.

D.C. Police Union chair Gregg Pemberton said the order was a “significant victory.”

The order “ensures that they will no longer be forced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine against their will and will no longer be subjected to discipline for deciding not to receive the vaccine,” he said.

Persons who object to the vaccine generally cite the possibility of side effects or the fact that messenger-RNA shots are a relatively new technology that hadn’t been deployed in a widespread manner before COVID-19. 

They also object to mandates because vaccinated persons can still contract and spread the virus, even if the shots stave off severe outcomes in individuals.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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