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Will LA require city staff to be vaccinated?

During a meeting between Mayor Eric Garcetti and his city department head Monday, a conversation about how to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among city employees turned to a point in vaccination warrants – including one being implemented in San Francisco.

Whether LA is following San Francisco’s example, however, is unclear.

San Francisco announced last week that all 35,000 of its employees will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs. He gave them until July 29 to report their vaccination status in the city, and said the vaccines will be needed once the vaccines receive full authorization – rather than the current emergency authorizations – from the Food and Drug Administration.

Once full authorization is given, likely in the coming months, San Francisco city employees – including police and firefighters – will have 10 weeks to prove the vaccination, officials said. Medical and religious exceptions will be made.

No such decision has been made in Los Angeles, though some officials have begun to consider it while watching vaccination and infection rates carefully and pondering new ways to combat the threat of new variants of the virus.

People who are vaccinated are protected against the variants, but those who are not vaccinated remain vulnerable.

Asked about conversations among Garcetti’s department heads, Alex Comisar, a mayoral spokesman, said it was merely an “conceptual conceptual conversation” about “improving vaccine uptake” among city employees.

“A wide range of ideas have been discussed and we want to consider all strategies – but no imminent decision on a mandate of any kind,” Comisar said.

Alison Simard, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, said the councilman has not ruled out mandatory vaccination ideas for city employees but has yet to call for the city to do so. Koretz led an advisory committee focused on personal issues.

With the rise of new variants, “vaccinated people are still very sensitive and where we are now is not safe enough,” Simard said. At this point, “we’re looking at options to increase the vaccination.”

Councilman Gil Cedillo said mandatory vaccination for urban workers seems like “something we should do” amid the ongoing pandemic.

“A proper warrant if it is a working condition. Serving the city is a privilege,” Cedillo said in a statement. “In order to instill confidence in the people we serve, the public needs to know that workers are able to serve them safely. We don’t want the public to hesitate to seek services that they want and need because they don’t feel safe.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission on Tuesday that the discussion during Garcetti’s cabinet meeting was largely focused on departmental efforts to promote vaccination among employees, “while also considering alternatives as a mandatory program.” like what San Francisco put in place.

Moore said he also spoke last week with San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, an LAPD veteran, about efforts to get San Francisco officers to be vaccinated.

The LAPD hit a plateau with vaccinations months ago, and just over half of its workforce is vaccinated. A similar percentage of City Fire Department personnel were vaccinated. Those lag rates well below the overall vaccination rates among LA County and California adults.

Moore said infections in the police force dramatically slowed, as did the wider population. However, another sworn officer has been infected in the past week, more than 50 remain ill with the virus, and two have just been hospitalized due to respiratory problems, he said.

“We continue to stress the importance of this pandemic, that it’s not over,” Moore said.

Moore did not cast his support behind a warrant but said he thinks a warrant for all employees would be better than one applied only to public safety workers such as police or firefighters.

“We should be all in or none,” he said.

Some ethicists and police experts see a mandate for public safety workers to make more sense to provide regular interactions with employees and members of the public, including those in vulnerable populations – some of whom cannot be vaccinated themselves.

LAPD is supposed to produce a report to the Police Commission on considerations and legal issues related to a immunization warrants for officers and on the current duties of vaccinated officers.

Both police and fire unions have come out in opposition to a vaccination warrant, though both said they are encouraging members to be vaccinated and to talk to their doctors about any concerns they may have.

Mike Long, a spokesman for the 721 Local Union International Employee Service, representing other employees in the city, said union officials “have not been approached with any discussion of a vaccination warrant” by LA authorities.

He said the local union has not managed a position on a mandate, but is committed to following best practices set by health officials and guidelines from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Times staff writer Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.

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