City employees in Los Angeles and Long Beach who aren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to get tested each week, officials said Tuesday.
The move comes a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a similar mandate for millions of state employees and health care workers.
In Los Angeles, officials say the requirement is part of a broader push to make vaccines mandatory for all city workers once the shots have full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The city is the largest employer in L.A., and among the largest in the county, officials say.
“Quite frankly I think it’s safe to say that we’re getting tired of protecting people who don’t want to protect themselves, or get vaccinated,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said in a briefing on the new rules Tuesday with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Mayor Robert Garcia made Long Beach’s decision public in a series of tweets earlier Tuesday, saying he strongly supported the governor’s policy.
“The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available,” Garcia wrote. “I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.”
Garcia added that 72% of Long Beach employees are already vaccinated. That’s the same as the proportion of Long Beach residents over 18 who are vaccinated.
Officials are working to push more people to get vaccinated as the delta variant is spurring a new surge in cases and threatening California’s broad reopening. Public health experts say low vaccination rates in vulnerable communities and more unmasked mingling have helped the highly contagious variant spread.
The number of new infections L.A. County reported Tuesday — 2,067 — is seven times higher than the daily cases reported when the state reopened June 15, Garcetti said.
Meanwhile, the county’s weekly testing positivity rate has climbed to 10.4%, compared to 1.5% on June 15. The rate is highest among 18- to 29-year-olds, with 13% positive right now, according to the mayor.
On Monday, L.A. County announced that hospitalizations have followed the spike in cases, nearly doubling in the last two weeks.
“Our hospitals are admitting a growing number of our friends, our neighbors and our family members,” Garcetti said. “So we have to act again to save lives.”
While about 62% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated, inoculation rates have stagnated in recent weeks. A similar trend is being seen statewide, where 62% of all eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
L.A. city vaccine sites have seen a 58% decrease in shots administered in July compared to June.
“On average we’re administering just 636 doses per day. We would do that in less than an hour at Dodger Stadium at the peak,” Garcetti said.
But Garcetti said he doesn’t expect business restrictions will return if people do their part to get vaccinated.
California’s new public worker vaccine rules take effect next month. Garcia did not say when Long Beach’s would go into effect.
L.A.’s timeline is up in the air. The city is asking department heads to submit data on vaccination rates by Aug. 15, Garcetti said.
The new policy will require all department heads to keep track of their employees’ vaccination status. Workers will be asked to show proof of full vaccination or produce proof of a negative coronavirus test each week, officials said.
There’s no set date yet for when those requirements will kick in. Garcetti said it will probably be a few weeks before the city can ensure it has the testing infrastructure, plus most departments won’t be returning in-person until after Labor Day at the earliest.
Specifics of the rules — including the vaccine mandate and logistics are employee testing — are still under discussion. They’ll be debated Wednesday at a meeting of the City Council’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, Martinez said.
Garcetti said city lawyers are reviewing the legality of a vaccine requirement, but he expects it will include religious and medical exceptions.
“Some people don’t like government always telling them what to do, even if they work for government,” he said. “We have to engage and meet people where they are, but I think we also have to be strong and say, the facts are this.”
Nationwide more than 99% of recent COVID-19 fatalities were among unvaccinated people, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month.
Those resisting the vaccine need to consider people ineligible to get the shots’ protection, like children and some people with health conditions.
“We are now half a year into our vaccination campaign, and we need the unvaccinated Angelenos to stop dragging their feet,” she said.
Visit www.vaccinatelacounty.com for a directory of local vaccine distribution sites.