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Sheriff says employees who died of COVID were unvaccinated

Updated November 3, 2021 - 7:20 pm

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Tuesday all of the department employees who died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Speaking at a Nevada Republican Club event in Las Vegas, Lombardo said he does not have plans to mandate vaccines for existing employees.

“They’re all adults and they’re educated, and they can make that decision,” he said after his speech.

Multiple Metropolitan Police Department employees have died from the coronavirus since July 2020. Police officers were among the first people to have access to vaccines after distribution began late last year.

Metro previously declined to provide information on the vaccination status of the employees who have died since the vaccine was released, citing the federal law restricting release of medical information.

Lt. Erik Lloyd, 53, and civilian employee John Melwak, 70, died last year before the vaccine was available.

This year, officer Jason Swanger, 41, died on June 24; officer Philip Closi, 48, died Aug. 12, and Sgt. Douglas King, 36, died Aug. 23.

Although there is no requirement for existing employees, the department requires new hires to be vaccinated against the virus.

Lombardo told attendees that requirement is in place because recruits do not know what environment they are going to experience in the profession.

“The lowest forms of human detritus they’re going to have to deal with as police officers, so I thought it was my duty as the head of agency to protect them,” he told the crowd.

After his speech, he said existing employees know what to expect working in law enforcement, and if they are comfortable being unvaccinated, they can make their own decision.

The sheriff said he wants to roll back the vaccine mandate for Metro’s new hires when disease metrics improve.

Lombardo officially launched his run for governor in June. If elected, he has no intention of enforcing vaccine mandates at the state level, he said.

He also told the audience he does not think the government should decide whether children must be vaccinated

The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines are effective in helping protect against severe disease and death.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter. Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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