Dozens of Los Angeles city employees are now going unpaid after refusing to sign notices that directed them to get COVID-19 vaccines by a December deadline — and the numbers could grow in coming weeks, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.
Garcetti addressed the issue at an evening briefing on COVID-19, his first since testing positive for the coronavirus himself in recent weeks and having to isolate while in Scotland for a climate change summit. The mayor said that 77 workers were on unpaid leave as of Wednesday and that roughly 700 more employees were vulnerable to joining them in the next two weeks. The city employs more than 50,000 people.
In his speech, the mayor urged Angelenos to get booster shots, immunize children who are newly eligible for the vaccine, and be tested if they are experiencing any symptoms, emphasizing that lower temperatures and more time spent indoors could make it easier for COVID-19 and the flu to spread.
“We can win this. This victory is here in front of us. But it requires each of us to take action. To do what’s right. And to move this city forward,” he said.
The mayor encouraged all adults to get booster shots if enough time had elapsed since they received the vaccine. “Let me say it simply: If you’re 18 or older and want to get a booster, get it,” Garcetti said.
Breakthrough infections among vaccinated people, like the one he experienced, are the result of waning immunity, he said. Still, he emphasized that the modestness of the illness he experienced — a mild fever and some cold symptoms — was “probably thanks to the vaccine that I got earlier this year.”
The L.A. city workers who refused to sign notices about vaccination requirementsare the first to face major consequences for flouting a Los Angeles ordinance passed in August that requires city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption.
Last month, after the vaccination rules officially became a condition of city employment, the City Council approved a plan that gave unvaccinated employees more time to get the shots. City officials said, however, that there could be swifter consequences for workers who balked at that plan.