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American News Feb 23, 2022 6:21 PM EST

'Hero To Zero': Daily Caller documentary tells stories of first responders, teachers persecuted for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

"I am not going to compromise my core convictions for a paycheck," said a San Diego pediatric nurse who's been placed on unpaid leave after refusing COVID-19 vaccination.

'Hero To Zero': Daily Caller documentary tells stories of first responders, teachers persecuted for refusing COVID-19 vaccine
Mia Cathell The Post Millennial

Daily Caller field reporter Jorge Ventura has released a new documentary, titled "Hero To Zero," which tells the stories of first responders and teachers who were placed on unpaid leave or fired for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

During the height of the pandemic, the mainstream media praised police officers, firefighters, and nurses as heroes protecting society through a public health crisis.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to the general public, inoculation has become a term of employment, leaving non-complying laborers, educators, and healthcare workers vilified based on a personal medical decision.

California, demanding a vaccinated workforce, became the first state in early August to mandate vaccination for healthcare workers, after they've worked throughout the COVID-19 shutdown while residents were forced to quarantine.

"So as the clock started ticking on California's first responders, the media started coursing them into submission," Ventura narrated the documentary. "These are the same nurses, cops, and firefighters they put on a pedestal a year ago."

Ventura pointed to the Los Angeles Times column from December that argues that the city should fire unvaccinated firefighters to "Build Back Better."

The heroes-turned-zeros have been dragged through the mud for defying vaccine mandates, forced to choose between their beliefs and their livelihoods.

Firefighters who run into burning buildings, police officers who stand in front of bullets, and EMTs who save lives have all been disparaged by the powers that be.

"You know you're just a number. We can just get rid of you and replace you like that," firefighter Josh Sattley, who was placed on unpaid leave after he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, paraphrased his boss. "You mean nothing to us."

Sattley described an initial positive screening when the Beverly Hills department encountered someone who came from part of the world with COVID-19 exposures:

"During that whole time, we've been praised and propped up as heroes. We came in when we didn't know what the risk was. We were willing to risk our own lives."

Sattley said he felt "stabbed in the back" by political pundits who have used firefighters as props during photo opportunities, recounting how they'd posed for pictures at Sept. 11 ceremonies just to be told months later they'll be replaced.

Back in October, firefighters in Beverly Hills, California, held a rally protesting vaccine mandates head of the Oct. 1 deadline for Los Angeles County employees to get the jab. A firefighter said he and five others were denied religious exemptions.

The order went beyond other measures at the federal, state, and local levels by denying accommodation for petitioners who do not wish to be vaccinated.

Sattley said only followers of the Dutch Reformed Church and Christian Scientists have been able to claim vaccine exemption on religious grounds. Pope Francis has suggested that COVID-19 vaccination is a "moral obligation" for Roman Catholics.

"I have children that 10 years from now when they decide that, you know, something else has to be mandated, I mean, these mandates are never going to stop," firefighter John Knox said. "And my children look at me and go, 'Hey, you were there. What did you do, why didn't you stand up? Why didn't you fight back?' I can't look them in the face and say I did everything I could in order to stop that."

Knox, a Firefighters4Freedom leader, detailed how firefighters respond to emergency calls without hesitancy despite the dangers and few protections.

"Being a firefighter or a paramedic, there is no telemedicine in that aspect. I can't put a fire out from my living room. You have to be there. You have to be hands-on," Knox said. "The people have come to expect us to show up. It doesn't matter what it is. And we don't question it. I don't go to somebody's house and ask them, 'Did you get a vaccinate? Did you get a shot?' No we just go in there and help them."

After two decades of service, Knox stated he's witnessed morale at an all-time low. "It's because [firefighters] are constantly being beat on by the news media."

Knox recalled in the documentary when he was sent an email announcing he has been placed on off-duty leave with no pay pending termination since Dec. 1.

"At some point, you have to stand for what you believe in. Because if you don't, then they're just going to use you as a doormat and walk all over you. And that's the slipperiest slope in the world," Knox told the Daily Caller in an interview.

Los Angeles Police Department officer Michael McMahon said that during the early days of the pandemic, the police force was still on the front lines serving despite limited personal protective equipment (PPE) and days-old face masks.

McMahon said the shift in treatment of first responders is "a total slap in the face."

"Have you accepted that you might get fired for your stance when it comes to the vaccine mandate?" Ventura asked McMahon in a separate interview. To which, the officer responded: "I have accepted it. This is the hill that's worth dying on."

Each individual unvaccinated worker has to pay out of pocket $65 per COVID-19 test—eight times a month—totaling $520 monthly, McMahon revealed.

George Ramirez of the LAPD said city employees were instructed to sign up for the contracted Bluestone testing services, until they've found out that one of the company's part-owners is Pierce Health Solutions CEO Pedram Salimpour.

Salimpour is a three-time appointed Commissioner of the Los Angeles Fire & Police Pensions Board who has been accused of ethics violations over the multi-million dollar no-bid contract for the COVID-19 testing start-up.

"If that doesn't cry foul to people, I don't know what does," Ramirez said.

Newport Beach-based Vivera Pharmaceuticals announced that would offer free COVID-19 testing to all southern California first responders and their families.

"There is no reason to force first responders to pay for testing in order to keep their jobs," Vivera CEO Paul Edalat said in a statement, according to the Daily News. "We are committed to doing our part in this pandemic, and that does not mean profiting off the backs of those who serve our communities."

The city has said it won't accept third-party tests, Daily News reported.

McMahon called out city leadership for not allowing first responders to test anywhere else for free or making vaccinated workers test as well. "They're essentially segregating the unvaccinated employees of the city..." McMahon stated.

The documentary included a clip of Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian saying: "This is not going to be an option. You are either going to be vaccinated...or you're not going to be able to continue to be employed by this city."

Krekorian stated that "it is our duty as citizens, let alone as public employees, just as citizens, to make sure we get vaccinated to keep people from dying."

All city employees, including police and firefighters, were mandated in summer 2021 to get the shot or face repercussions under the restrictive ordinance.

Employees who are unvaccinated would be "ineligible to promote or transfer" until they've reached full vaccination status, according to the drafted ordinance.

California implemented a first-in-the-nation measure in August compelling school staff statewide to get vaccinated against the coronavirus when the state's Department of Public Health issued a public health order requiring faculty to either show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or be tested at least once per week.

In an interview, Hemet high school teacher Janie Washburn noted that school faculty can range from young, pregnant educators to older instructors.

"We have no idea what the long-term effects are...How can they mandate all of these different people who are gonna have different reactions to that?" she asked.

A teary-eyed Washburn, who decided to take a stand against vaccination, said that when she defied the school's testing protocol for unvaccinated staff, she was placed on unpaid leave starting Jan. 3 and was handed a letter of reprimand.

"When you're in the middle of a school year, it's like I'm letting down all those kids," an emotional Washburn, crying on camera, said to the Daily Caller. "But at some point, I got to draw a line. I gotta do what's best for me and my family.

"I feel horrible for those kids that don't have a teacher right now, but I also can’t give in to what I believe for everybody else," Washburn told the Daily Caller.

Washburn said that many others have expressed to her that they wish they can follow suit but they can't financially afford to stand up against their employers.

San Diego special needs teacher Noemi Abrego, who has tried to apply to caregiving jobs and has since resorted to delivering groceries to make money, said she's been living off of saving since February 2021. "I want to work, but can I?" Abrego asked, but declared: "I'm not going to comply with what they're saying."

President Joe Biden's workplace vaccine mandate for private companies with 100 or more employees was struck down in January by the Supreme Court. However, the Biden administration's mandate for healthcare workers remains in place.

"Home of heroes," San Diego pediatric nurse Jackie McCarroll said in the Daily Caller documentary. "A year later, that 'H' is a 'Z' and it's a home of zeroes."

The majority of non-complying workers at Rady Children's Hospital have been placed on unpaid administrative leave, according to McCarroll. "I really felt like that was my way of giving back to the community and that's been taken away from me," McCarroll said. "And along with it, my ability to provide, which is scary."

"I am not going to compromise my core convictions for a paycheck," McCarroll said. "And I am confident that I will take my years of nursing experience, my commitment to the community, and my love for kids elsewhere and create a new way for myself to continue to be a nurse outside of that hospital setting."

"Hero To Zero," produced by Sagnik Basu, is Ventura's second documentary with the Daily Caller, following "Cartelville, USA," an investigative project that documented the Mexican drug cartels in Southern California that are launching illegal marijuana operations, taking over small towns, stealing water from local communities in the targeted areas, and threatening working-class Americans.

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