LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified an emergency order today mandating that all county employees -- more than 110,000 people -- provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by Oct. 1, but left open the possibility of exemptions and testing rather than vaccines for some employees.
Supervisor Hilda Solis issued the mandate by executive order on Aug. 4 calling strictly for vaccination.
“Those who remain unvaccinated are vulnerable,'' Solis told her colleagues. “Millions of people are still hesitant and refuse to do their part altogether. ... I don't think we can wait any longer.''
Supervisor Holly Mitchell offered her full support and warned against offering the option of regular testing in lieu of full vaccination.
“While it may be tempting to provide more flexibility for people not to be vaccinated and be tested instead, this would just delay the inevitable,'' Mitchell said. “The financial and logistical cost -- as well as the human lives that could be lost -- (of) allowing people to opt out of vaccines and get tested instead would be immense.''
Mitchell alluded to feedback from some workers that the mandate is immoral and amounts to human experimentation.
“I am sorry that some county employees feel that we are not taking their best interests to heart. This could not be further from the truth,'' Mitchell said. “We are challenged to follow the science.''
Some labor leaders pushed back against the idea of a blanket mandate.
Tab Rhodes, president of the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association, said his union could not support the plan, which he said was too restrictive and would actually work against the goal of safely returning to normal.
“Many of our membership have already been vaccinated or, as front-line responders, suffered the effects of COVID-19, presumably now having antibodies against future infection. Others have strong feelings related to the vaccine and its lack of FDA approval,'' Rhodes said, urging a comprehensive review of a separate motion by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl.
That motion recommended that the CEO's office put together a detailed plan for implementation and suggested the ultimate policy could allow for testing as an alternative.
“The built-in options of obtaining a vaccination and/or weekly testing would be viewed by our members as more beneficial, collaborative and present a level of individual compliance, which is the ultimate goal,'' Rhodes said.
The Hahn/Kuehl motion, which was also unanimously approved, also directed the CEO to consider whether county contractors should be subject to the mandate.
County CEO Fesia Davenport pointed to other tricky questions yet to be settled, including how to handle employees who simply refuse to be vaccinated.
“We know that we're going to have to make some exemptions that are required by law,'' Davenport said. “At the end of the day, the overall goal is to reach the policy mandate.''
Kuehl said she would like to see the county begin immediately tracking which employees were vaccinated and allow testing between now and the Oct. 1 deadline, but limit testing after that date to a small number of exempt employees.
“The tighter the better after Oct. 1,'' Kuehl said.
Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Showing proof of vaccination against the coronavirus would be required to enter some indoor public spaces in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County under a proposal set to receive a preliminary review from the Board of Supervisors today.
Supervisor Janice Hahn drafted the motion. If approved, county staff and attorneys would be asked to report back in two weeks about what such a policy could look like -- for instance, whether it should apply to all indoor public spaces and events or certain nonessential ones only, and whether it should require full or partial immunization.
There's also a question of whether paper or digital records could be used to verify a person's vaccination status.
“Nearly 4 million people in Los Angeles County are still unvaccinated and COVID-19 continues to spread more easily in indoor spaces, crowds and other settings where unvaccinated people are in close contact,'' Hahn wrote in her motion.
“To prevent future surges and new variants from circulating, especially as we approach fall and winter, we must consider whether additional measures are necessary, such as vaccine requirements for certain settings.''
Hahn's proposal comes on the heels of a similar motion being considered by the Los Angeles City Council. The city motion would require at least partial vaccination to enter indoor public spaces, including restaurants, gyms, concert venues, movie theaters and retail establishments.
Both the city and county are seeing jumps in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases, with most infections occurring among unvaccinated residents. The sharp rise in infections over the past two months has been attributed to the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus.
“With increased testing, our case numbers are likely to rise until we significantly reduce community transmission,'' Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week.
“... While indoor masking and quarantine and isolation of cases and close contacts are effective strategies for reducing transmission, the quickest way to slow the spread is to increase vaccination coverage.''
She noted that the county has now seen three consecutive weeks of increases in the number of people receiving a first dose of vaccine, following months of declines.
That increase in vaccinations could be due, in part, to the state of California recently requiring all state workers to be vaccinated or regularly tested. The state is also mandating vaccinations for all health care workers.
Some cities, universities and private institutions also have recently mandated vaccines or regular testing for employees and students.
Although vaccinated people can get infected with the virus, Ferrer said they are far less likely to become seriously ill or require hospitalization.
From May 1 to July 17, unvaccinated people were nearly four times more likely to be infected with COVID than were vaccinated residents, Ferrer said. Of the 3,158 people who were hospitalized in the county during that time period, 8% were fully vaccinated. She has also noted that some of the hospital patients with COVID were actually admitted for other reasons, and only discovered they were infected during routine admission screening.
Between April 1 and July 18, 95.2% of the people age 16 and older who died from COVID in the county were unvaccinated, Ferrer said.
Hahn's motion notes that New York City has already implemented a vaccine mandate to enter certain indoor businesses, including restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms.
According to preliminary data from New York City, the mandate has been effective in getting more people vaccinated. Last week, almost 80,000 New Yorkers got their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, which was a 40% increase from the number of residents who got their first shot in the first week of July, according to Hahn's motion.
“Vaccines remain the most powerful tool in our recovery journey, as those who are fully vaccinated have a significantly lower risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death than those who are unvaccinated,'' Hahn wrote in her motion.
Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.