California plays catch up with vaccine mandates

Los Angeles and California scramble to vaccinate and test employees.

By Emily Faith Grodin, Staff Writer

LA City Council approved a plan in late October to give city employees more time to get vaccinated, or face corrective action. City workers will now have until Dec. 18.

This plan comes at a time when the state of California as a whole is struggling to keep up with vaccine mandates already put in place. In July Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all California government workers must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Agencies were required to collect vaccine records from their employees and report to the California Department of Human Resources in which many state agencies, such as the DMV and CHP, have reported low vaccination rates.

One local agency is ignoring the mandate altogether. LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that he will not enforce the mandate with his deputies. On a Facebook Live video, the sheriff explained that large numbers of his force were willing to sacrifice their job over the mandate.

“I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5 percent or ten percent of my workforce overnight over a vaccine mandate,” said Villanueva in the Facebook Live video.

Some agencies have fallen further behind the mandate than others. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, otherwise known as CALFIRE, reported that just 30 percent of their employees are vaccinated. The department claims a total of roughly 8,000 employees, meaning that 2,400 are fully vaccinated.

The state agency responsible for the State Fair, or California Exposition, currently has the lowest vaccination rates in the state. The data shows that 23 percent of their employees have been inoculated. The agency has 46 employees.

The vaccination requirement is only half of the mandate. Many government agencies are not testing unvaccinated employees according to the LA Times. CALFIRE, for example, is testing just 75 of more than six thousand unvaccinated workers, with seemingly no indication of who is tested and why. The DMV said that they are testing 411 of their employees, while the data shows they have about 3,600 unvaccinated workers. Of 59,000 state employees, roughly half submitted to testing during the first week of October as required.

Representative Camille Travis from the CA department of HR said Monday, “We are continuing to expand the testing program, but given the complexity and novelty of the task, we think the program is going quite well thanks to the hard work of health and safety coordinators and leadership at many state departments.”

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