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Lawsuit threatened over Dona Ana County mandate for first-responder vaccines

UPDATE, Feb. 9: A legal group calling itself 'New Mexico Stand Up' threatened a lawsuit Tuesday against Dona Ana County in the wake of a mandate by the county manager requiring that all first-responders get vaccinated for the coronavirus.

In a letter sent to the county, lawyers for the group claim the employment requirement for vaccinations violates federal law. The group asks the county to cease the mandate or face a potential lawsuit.

But County officials on Tuesday reiterated that they believe the requirement is legal and will defend it in court if necessary.

The same group threatening to sue the county has also filed suit against New Mexico's governor challenging her pandemic restrictions on businesses.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Feb. 3: LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Dona Ana County Manager Fernando Macias has sent out a memo mandating all of the county's first-responders get the Covid-19 vaccine.

In the memo, obtained Wednesday by ABC-7, it states in part, "As required by OSHA and in accordance with the County's duty to provide and maintain a workplace that is free of known hazards, we are adopting a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination directive to safeguard the health of our employees, their families, the customers we serve, and the community at large from this highly contagious infections disease."

The memo, which was issued last week, says first-responders include certified law enforcement officers, detention officers and other staff who have face-to-face contact with inmates, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

"We have to find a way to come out of this nightmare and one of the pillars that supports a policy or strategy is the advancement of individuals taking the vaccine," said Macias.

In spite of encouraging first-responders to get the vaccine, Macias told ABC-7, only a third of them did and that's why making it mandatory was "necessary."

Macias added that first-responders have a public duty to get the vaccine and only those with religious or medical reasons will be exempt.

"Each individual matter will be looked at, but certainly disciplinary action can be taken if there is just literally a refusal or 'I don't want to be told to do this,'" said Macias.

ABC-7 asked Macias if it was legal to make the vaccination requirement mandatory, and he replied that he "wouldn't have issued the directive if there was any legal impediment."

This week was set aside by the county for first-responders to get the vaccine, according to that memo, which you can view below.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

Shelby Montgomery

Las Cruces native Shelby Montgomery is an ABC-7 reporter who also co-anchors Good Morning El Paso weekends.

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