Los Angeles City Workers Must Soon Be Vaccinated

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U.S.|City workers in Los Angeles will soon have to get vaccinated.


Firefighter Henry Hsieh, picks up a vaccination card before getting his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a fire station in Los Angeles, in January.
Credit...Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Daniel E. Slotnik

  • Aug. 19, 2021, 5:41 p.m. ET

The Los Angeles City Council passed on Wednesday a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for nearly 60,000 city workers, including police officers and firefighters, that did not include an option for regular testing.

Other major cities, states, companies, health care systems and the federal government have all passed different vaccine rules. But many, including New York City’s, allow people to skip the shots as long as they are regularly tested for the coronavirus.

Los Angeles’s rule, and one recently announced for much of Seattle’s municipal workforce, remove that option. Los Angeles will only allow medical or religious exemptions.

The vaccine mandate in Los Angeles reflects a broader trend toward harsher measures, from the White House down, to push the Americans who are still not vaccinated to get the shots as the Delta variant ravages the United States.

In much of the country cases and hospitalizations have reached levels not seen since last winter, and only 51 percent of the population is vaccinated so far, according to federal data.

Los Angeles, the second most populous U.S. city, was one of the hardest-hit parts of the country last winter, according to a New York Times database. Cases and hospitalizations have climbed sharply from their lows earlier this summer, but are still a fraction of their winter peaks.

Los Angeles County issued a vaccination requirement without a testing option for its 110,000 employees earlier this month.

The president of the Los Angeles City Council, Nury Martinez, said in an emailed statement that 42 city employees had died from Covid-19 and that requiring vaccinations was the right thing to do.

“How can we ask Angelenos to get vaccinated if we won’t ask it of our employees?” Ms. Martinez said. “No resident should be nervous that the city servant they are dealing with is unvaccinated and putting their health and possibly life at risk, and no city employee should have to worry about getting sick from their co-worker.”

The vaccine mandate ordinance still needs to be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become law, but Harrison Wollman, the mayor’s press secretary, said on Thursday that the mayor would sign it soon. Once it is signed, city employees will have until Oct. 19 to be completely inoculated against the coronavirus.

“We need to do everything in our power to protect the health and safety of those who keep our City running and the Angelenos who rely on the services they provide every day,” Mr. Garcetti said in a statement. “This requirement is the surest way to achieve that and set an example for others to follow.”

The ordinance does not yet specify penalties for workers who do not comply. Ms. Martinez said that the city was negotiating with the many different unions that represent city workers about the proper penalties, but said she hoped that it would not involve the possibility of firing workers who do not comply.

Unions across the country have struggled to balance their workers’ safety with their workplace rights, and many of them support vaccines but oppose mandates.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, a union that represents nearly 10,000 members of the Los Angeles Police Department, said in a statement from its board of directors that the union was “extremely disappointed” with the new rule.

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