City Mandates Vaccinations for All Employees

By: 
Stephen Downing

In a letter to all city employees obtained by the Beachcomber from the City Joint Information Center (JIC) it was revealed Wednesday that City Manager Tom Modica has implemented a mandate that all city employees are to be vaccinated in what he labeled as “Phase three of our vaccination rollout.”

In his matter-of-fact letter to city employees Modica wrote: “This will be the next phase of our vaccination rollout” and it will be “a requirement for all new and current employees to be vaccinated to further protect public health, protect our workforce and protect those who we serve.”

A specific date or details surrounding the mandate was not announced, however. Modica said “we will work on the specific details of this policy though the meet and confer process with our labor organizations over the coming weeks to determine dates by which the workforce will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

His announcement also provided that “medical and religious exemptions will be allowed.”

The city manager essentially chided his employees by pointing to the fact that two months ago the city workforce was 72 percent vaccinated, “which essentially matched the vaccination rate in our community at the time.”

He said since that time the city work force has “essentially remained the same as before” (73 %) while the greater Long Beach community has continued to increase vaccination rates and has grown to 75.1 percent.”

In his letter Modica emphasized that “COVID-19 is still very much a real and constant threat” and that “we see new infections in our employees every week,” pointing to the reality that “city operations are consistently impacted from employees out sick, on quarantine, or with family members impacted.”

The letter revealed that vaccination rates for city departments vary widely by department, “ranging from a low of 57 percent to a high of 95 percent.”

The Fire and Police Departments remain the lowest with total fire employees at 59% and total police employees at 57%.

When breaking out sworn firefighters from civilian employees in the Fire Department the data shows that sworn fire fighters are 60% vaccinated – a miniscule improvement over the city’s July 27 report of 58% while the sworn police officer vaccination rate is 51% compared to 51% last July, indicating that internal leadership has had no impact upon first responders’ willingness to recognize their responsibility to protect rather than infect the community they are sworn to serve.

Modica said that although the “third wave appears to currently to be in decline, health experts fully expect that COVID-19 will again hit our workforce and community hard in the winter” and that “we must be prepared to meet this challenge with proven mitigations efforts to combat COVID-19.

Modica outlined nine factors that went into his mandate decision which included a recognition that lack of vaccination is impacting the city’s core mission of providing direct services to the community, COVID-19 continues to be the leading cause of death for police officers nationwide and that the vaccine now available has been fully studied and approved for safe use by the FDA.

The city manager pronounced that the current model of allowing testing in lieu of vaccination “is no longer a feasible model for the future,“ pointing to the fact that “the current model costs the city $110,000 per week, or $5.7 million per year at current rates to test non-vaccinated employees.”

He also informed his employees that the city was recently informed that insurance will not cover those costs and that “this financial burden would be on top of the $38 million structural deficit we will need to address next year.”

Modica said that he is “hopeful that those who have been hesitant of the vaccine take the next few weeks while we work out the details of our policy to join the majority of our workforce who have already taken this important step and show that we, as an agency, can be in line with our community and lead as public servants, doing our part for the greater good and public health of the entire community.”

Modica’s full letter to city employees can be read here.

 

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retire LAPD deputy chief of police

Stephen.Beachcomber@Gmail.com

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Comments

While I’m glad the city came around to eliminating the testing-in-lieu-of-vaxxing option, even if for the wrong reasons, this mandate could’ve been done properly from the beginning.

“We must lead by example” said Mayor Robert Garcia at the height of the pandemic last year, and “Follow the science.”

How does having police officers, the persons of authority with whom most people in vulnerable communities interact with most often, at only 51% vaccination rate show leadership by example?

How does allowing religious exemptions for the vaccine fit into following science?

Tom Modica you have my support. Everyone needs to be vaccinated and insurance should not cover those that aren’t.

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