UPDATED with most recent Covid numbers: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has warned public safety will be threatened by a “mass exodus” of employees from his department caused by a vaccination mandate for all L.A. County employees issued by the Board of Supervisors.
Villanueva previously said he would not enforce the mandate. However, he addressed the issue again recently on his social media .
“I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” Villanueva wrote. “We are experiencing an increase in unscheduled retirements, worker compensation claims, employees quitting, and a reduction in qualified applicants.”
Villanueva predicted homicide rates in the county would continue to rise, response times would increase, and patrol services would decline.
“With the pandemic waning, there is no justification for the Board mandate,” Villanueva said on Friday. “It is like putting up the storm windows after the storm has passed.”
But the infection rate actually rose in the county over the past week for the first time in months. And on Monday, state numbers revealed the number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals had also increased for the first time in months. The count of Covid patients was 630 on Friday, 659 on Saturday and 672 on Sunday.
The County Board of Supervisors issued its vaccination executive order in August. All Los Angeles County employees were required to register vaccination status by Oct. 1. Religious and medical exceptions are allowed by the order.
“The county expects all department heads to encourage their employees to register as an important public health measure to protect workers and the public we serve,” county spokesman Michael Wilson said to the Los Angeles Times. “The vaccination policy is intended to save lives, not to punish employees based on their vaccination status.”
Villanueva said department personnel already wear masks and submit to regular Covid-19 testing, although at one time he said he would not enforce a mask mandate, either.
“Personally, I am vaccinated and believe the vaccine works,” he said. “But the choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their body.”
The Sheriff said last month that, based on budget cuts and employee reluctance, “we have to pick and choose,” which mandates from the Board to enforce. It’s an interesting stance since the Board of Supervisors, effectively, oversees Villanueva’s department.
The resources argument is also baffling given that, of the 18,000 LASD employees, over 10,000 have either had Covid or been quarantined as a result of close contact with someone who was infected. That’s more than 55% of the department whose productivity has been impacted by the virus. The count is close to double the 20-30% Villanueva guesses would have a problem with the vaccine which, the Sheriff says, he personally has received.
Tom Tapp and City News Service contributed to this report.