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Thousands of LA City Workers Haven't Revealed Their COVID Vaccination Status

City Hall against a blue sky from the perspective of someone looking up.
The city of Los Angeles is mandating COVID vaccines for its workers.
(Ethan Ward
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About 11% of people working for the city of Los Angeles want a medical or religious exemption from the municipal COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The mandate doesn’t take effect until Oct. 19 but the city’s 57,476 workers had until Monday to tell their departments if they would seek an exemption. Just 60% of city workers responded.

Even after extending the deadline by a week, thousands of workers have not revealed whether they’ve been vaccinated or filed an exemption request, including 7,846 Department of Water and Power employees, 3,997 Recreation and Parks workers, 3,856 police employees, and 1,553 fire department workers.

The data released by the mayor’s office, which is broken down by department, shows that a little less than half of city workers are fully vaccinated.

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The LAPD had 3,019 exemptions requested, the most of any department, although it is also the largest.

Six LAPD employees have filed a federal lawsuit against the mandate, claiming it violates their constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure without due process.

In a statement, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote: “This policy allows for medical and religious exemptions to protect certain workers’ health and constitutional rights but let me be absolutely clear: we will not tolerate the abuse of these exemptions by those who simply don’t want to get vaccinated.”

The mayor added: “To anyone thinking about filing a disingenuous exemption request, I strongly urge that you reconsider. Every request will be carefully vetted, and our goal will always be to get as many Angelenos vaccinated as possible."

It’s unclear what ramifications city employees will face if they fail to comply with the mandate.

The next step will be giving L.A. City employees and staff the “procedures and forms” for their official exemption requests, personnel general manager Wendy Macy wrote in a memo that accompanied the data.

L.A. City workers who receive a vaccine exemption will be tested weekly for COVID-19 if they report to a worksite. Those working remotely are subject to testing on an ad hoc basis.

In August, the California medical board warned physicians they cannot grant exemptions without conducting an appropriate exam or without a legitimate medical reason for the exemption.

If a doctor is caught issuing exemptions without good reason, they “may be subjecting their license to disciplinary action.”

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The medical board has a link on its website for the public to file a complaint if they feel a physician is granting exemptions inappropriately.

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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