With the coronavirus surging again, Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to introduce a motion Wednesday to require all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and to report their vaccination status to the appropriate city department.
The move, if enacted by the council, would bring the city in line with other local cities that have taken steps in the direction of a vaccine mandate, including Pasadena.
San Francisco and New York City have announced similar plans — and on Monday, California officials announced that all state employees and all workers at hospitals and health care facilities will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or be tested at least once a week.
“The city of Los Angeles must lead by example,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement released late Monday.
“During Wednesday’s council meeting, I plan to introduce a motion that would direct staff to develop a policy to require all city employees be fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus; and report their COVID-19 vaccination status to the appropriate City department.
“Plain and simple,” he added, “vaccinations are the only way out of this pandemic. They are the most effective way to prevent transmission and limit COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
“If we want our economy to fully recover, if we want our children to be able to go to school without masks on, and if we want the most vulnerable members of our community to not end up in the hospital, we must all do our part and this motion is a step in the right direction.”
With the Delta variant of the coronavirus continuing to drive up infection rates and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County, Ridley-Thomas added, “I believe that now is the time to scale up our COVID-19 precautions.”
L.A. County officials reported another 2,067 infections and 15 deaths on Tuesday, while COVID hospitalizations increased to 891, an increase from 825 the previous day.
Ridley-Thomas is likely to receive support from fellow council members, several of whom have already publicly supported the city moving in vaccine-mandate direction.
“I support having all city workers vaccinated,” Council President Nury Martinez told the Los Angeles Times.
Councilman Kevin de León, meanwhile, told the Times, “There’s no question in my mind that the city of L.A. should model to the state and the nation that we will do everything within our power to keep our city workers and neighbors safe,” he said.
De León, however, said he had not yet worked out potential consequences if city employees fail to comply with any vaccine mandate.
The potential mandate would come as the Los Angeles Police Department experiences an increase in positive cases and has one employee hospitalized in critical condition. In the last week, an additional 33 LAPD employees have tested positive for the virus, bringing the department’s total to 2,760, LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission on Tuesday. Last week, Moore reported an increase of 19 positive cases within the department.
Eighty-one employees are home recovering, an increase of 18 from last week, Moore said.
Moore did not provide an update Tuesday on the department’s vaccination rate, but he said the department was “closely monitoring the changing landscape as to the vaccinations and the requirements.”
“We’ve had conversations with Mayor Garcetti and I understand that the mayor’s team is working with labor across the city for vaccination protocols and we’re paying close attention to that,” Moore said. On June 22, Moore said that only 58% of LAPD employees have “had a full set of vaccines or have natural antibodies” from already having contracted the virus.
The union that represents LAPD officers, meanwhile, told City News Service that it’s ready to discuss the issue with city officials.
“We have yet to see any proposed vaccination policy, but we are prepared to meet and confer with the city to discuss any proposal and to ensure our members are treated fairly,” the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Board of Directors said in a statement. The board added that it encourages its members to get vaccinated and to speak with their physicians about concerns about the vaccines.
Also Tuesday, following in the footsteps of the University of California, the California State University system announced that it will also require all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in any in-person classes or activities for the fall term.
Meanwhile, after an announcement by the state Monday, all state employees and all workers at hospitals and health care facilities across California will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination — while those who are unable or refuse to do so will have to be tested at least once a week.
The vaccine-verification program for state employees is expected to begin as early as next week. The system for health-care workers will be implemented over the coming weeks, with compliance expected by Aug. 23. It will apply to all health-care settings across the state — public and private.
The policy falls short of a vaccine “mandate,” offering employees the option of undergoing regular COVID testing instead of providing proof of vaccination. Those workers will be required to undergo testing at least once a week, possibly even twice a week.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced Tuesday afternoon that the city will follow the state’s model and require its employees to either show proof of vaccinations or weekly negative COVID-19 tests.
“Thank you to the 72% of employees who are already vaccinated,” Garcia said. “It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership.”
He added that he hopes other cities and counties throughout California will enact similar policies, saying “it’s time we beat this pandemic.”