With a variety of COVID-19 vaccine mandates taking effect in the coming weeks, and others potentially on tap, Los Angeles County’s public health director Friday rejected the suggestion that such rules are “a form of judgment or coercion,” comparing them instead to other longstanding health regulations, such as limits on smoking.
“In many cases, without rules to prevent people from smoking in certain places, others would have no control over whether they’re exposed to cigarette smoke or not,” Barbara Ferrer said during a media videoconference. “So we do have rules in place to protect everyone from exposure to secondhand smoke. California has forbidden smoking in most public places since 1998. Smoking is legal and people can still smoke, but we have for decades agreed it’s unacceptable for the risk taken on by smokers to be shared by others who happen to be sharing their airspace.
“Targeted vaccination mandates are similar. We have ample evidence showing that being unvaccinated for COVID increases the risk to your health and increases the health risk you pose to others by raising your potential for transmitting the virus onward and for dangerous mutations to emerge.”
Ferrer said that while getting vaccinated is not mandatory, “targeted mandates communicate that it’s not acceptable for the risk taken on by unvaccinated people to be shared by others who happen to be sharing your space in particular settings.”
Her comments came on the day that all healthcare workers in the county are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. All county employees are required to be vaccinated by Friday — a deadline thousands of workers are expected to miss — followed by Los Angeles city employees next week.
Starting next Thursday, at least one dose of vaccine will be required for anyone attending an outdoor mega-event of 10,000 or more people in the county, and for anyone patronizing or working at an indoor bar, brewery, winery or distillery. Full vaccination will be required in those settings starting Nov. 4. The city of West Hollywood has enacted a similar mandate at indoor businesses, with the same deadline, and the city of Los Angeles is expected to approve the same rule next week.
Los Angeles Unified School District students taking part in extracurricular activities must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, while all district students must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 19
“I can understand that vaccine mandates feel like a form of judgment or coercion, the same way no-smoking signs might make a smoker feel angry,” Ferrer said. “I hope that everyone can understand this is not the intent. Unvaccinated people are unfortunately more likely to be infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air.”
According to figures Ferrer provided Thursday, 77% of eligible Los Angeles County residents aged 12 and over have received at least one vaccine dose, and 69% are fully vaccinated. Among the county’s overall 10.3 million population, including those under age 12 who aren’t yet eligible for shots, 66% have received at least one dose and 59% are fully vaccinated.
While Ferrer said the overall numbers are impressive, “millions of eligible residents remain unvaccinated.”
Black residents continue to have the lowest vaccination rate in the county, with just 54% of Black residents having received at least one dose. Latino/a residents have a 62% vaccination rate, while 72% of white residents have at least one dose and 81% of Asians.
Another 28 COVID-19 deaths were reported by the county Thursday, raising the death toll from the virus to 26,106. Ferrer also reported 1,535 new cases, for a pandemic total of 1,459,182.
According to the latest state figures, there were 872 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Thursday, up slightly from 871 on Wednesday. There were 246 people in intensive care, a drop from 249 on Tuesday.
The number of COVID-positive people hospitalized in the county has fallen 27 times in the past 31 days, bringing the number down from a summer peak of nearly 1,800.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus remained low, at about 1.6%.