LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday updated its mandate for municipal employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, giving them until Dec. 18 to comply.
The deadline was extended from last Wednesday. Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week that any city employee who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 18 should be prepared to lose their job.
"The city's employee vaccine mandate is critical to protecting the health and safety of our workforce and the Angelenos we serve," the mayor said on Oct. 20, after the new plan was submitted by the city administrative officer. "Employees must be vaccinated by December 18, and we are putting a rigorous testing program into place in the meantime. Let me be clear: Any employee who refuses to be vaccinated by this date should be prepared to lose their job."
Through Dec. 18, unvaccinated employees have to submit to two COVID-19 tests per week, and $65 per test will be deducted from their paychecks. Employees have to get tested during their free time, and testing has to be conducted by the city or a vendor of the city's choosing. Third party tests will not be allowed.
According to data from the mayor's office on Oct. 19, 72.8% of city employees reported being fully or partially vaccinated, 17.9% either declined to state or did not report their status and 9.2% reported they were not vaccinated.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said during the Police Commission meeting Tuesday that 74% of the police department's workforce has received at least one shot, and 70% are fully vaccinated.
Those seeking religious or medical exemptions will also be required to take two tests per week at the employee's own expense while the city processes the exemption request. If an exemption is approved, the employee will be reimbursed for testing costs and going forward will be required to test for COVID-19 once per week, but the city will pay for it.
If an exemption request is denied, the employee will have five business days to file an appeal. If they do not appeal the decision, they will be issued a notice that they must submit proof of vaccination. Failure to do so would result in "corrective action."
The employee will be able to either resign or retire "all in good standing in lieu of discipline" if they did not comply with the mandate. Those employees will also be eligible for rehire if they get vaccinated or if the vaccination order is lifted.
Exemption requests are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis. People can qualify for an exemption if they have a medical condition or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.
"How can we ask Angelenos to be vaccinated if we are not doing it ourselves? We need to set the strong example for our communities. The vaccines are available, they're effective, and they're keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators," Council President Nury Martinez said when the ordinance was approved in August.
Many workers who don't want the vaccines say it's an issue of personal freedom, with some expressing doubts about the vaccines' safety or efficacy. Mandate proponents say unvaccinated people can put others — including those who aren't eligible for the vaccines — in danger.