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Unvaccinated LA County Health Workers Will Be Reassigned

A line graph showing new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths all decreasing in the latest surge that started in July, 2021.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Department of Public Health)
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Sept. 30 was the day when California health workers must be fully vaccinated, or face consequences. But what those consequences will entail has been murky.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health employees won’t get fired for missing the vaccination deadline, said county public health director Barbara Ferrer at her weekly press briefing.

“We'll be working with those that are not fully vaccinated, to make sure that they're not violating the health officer order," she said. "And that is not by terminating people."

Ferrer said her department would reassign employees until they are fully vaccinated or receive a religious or medical exemption. She said more than 90% of the department’s health care employees are already vaccinated against the coronavirus. Those numbers, however, don't include health workers at county hospitals; they fall under a different department.

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“We're hearing from other hospitals and healthcare systems that they too have been very successful in getting the vast majority of their health care workforce vaccinated,” Ferrer said.

“[Health workers] have ... saved thousands and thousands of lives, with their dedication and their skill. And as you can see, the vast majority of them are also continuing to protect other people,” she said.

Vaccinations in L.A. County plateaued at just 38,000 doses given last week, down from a high of 450,000 in early April.

A line graph showing outbreaks are still higher in homeless settings than in any other congregate place, like health care settings or nursing homes.
Courtesy of the L.A. County Department of Public Health)

“Despite our very best efforts, the vaccination progress is going much more slowly than we need it to be,” Ferrer said. “Although booster shots are getting a lot of media attention, it's still most important to increase our numbers of first dose recipients.”

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New COVID-19 cases are declining across the county, including in L.A.’s schools and workplaces. Ferrer reported the county’s average case rate is now 11 cases per 100,000 people, down one point from last week’s rate.

The L.A. City Council will vote next week on an ordinance requiring customers to show proof of full vaccination at indoor areas including restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, convention centers, card rooms, museums, malls, play areas, spas and salons in the city beginning Nov. 4.

The proposed order would expand on a countywide order that was already set to begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs, lounges and mega outdoor events by Oct. 7. But indoor restaurants are not included in the county order.

“We're very excited about the actions that the city council is taking to add layers of protection,” Ferrer said. “In the city of L.A., we'll be working closely, obviously, to provide support to all of the establishments that will be covered by their ordinance and make sure that that implementation goes as smoothly as possible.”

Ferrer declined to say if L.A. County’s health order should be reconciled with the proposed city ordinance to avoid confusion, which was a concern that some L.A. city council members voiced at Wednesday’s meeting.

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“You don't always need a health officer order to do what's right,” Ferrer said. “We don't have capacity limits, we don't have distancing requirements. And yet many places are still being super careful about not creating overcrowded conditions ... and adding requirements around vaccination and testing, so I want to applaud all of those businesses.”