More than 400 LAPD officers and 200 LA City firefighters called-in sick this week and reported they had tested positive for COVID-19 amid a nationwide spike in the number of new cases likely spurred by the quickly-spreading Omicron variant.
Two hundred one firefighters missed their shifts Tuesday, leading to an incremental increase in response times to medical and fire emergencies and the need to bring more off-duty firefighters back to work on overtime shifts.
"We will have fewer resources to respond," City Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas told the I-Team. "Therefore, we're going to have slightly longer response time."
As of late Tuesday 416 police officers reported they were out due to COVID along with 89 members of the LAPD's support staff, City officials said Tuesday.
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“LAPD is still meeting staffing requirements throughout the City and there is no current disruption to core services,” said Capt. Stacy Spell.
“The department is prepared to make adjustments to our staffing, including the reallocation of human resources in the event it becomes needed, however we are not at that point.” An internal LAPD report obtained by the I-Team showed 52 of those new cases were at one of the LAPD academy locations, 27 were at the Newton Station, and 12 were at the Downtown 911 and dispatch center.
Terrazas said the sick-outs and necessary overtime surges to fill those vacancies were creating an enormous amount of stress on the Fire Department's workforce.
"We have a large surge capacity under normal circumstances. But I think we're using up that capability to surge because we have so many people out who are positive with COVID right now," he said.
"And I'm seeing our firefighters less willing to work as much overtime as they used to, I call it COVID fatigue."
The overall vaccination rate among City employees appears to be nearing a plateau, one senior City Hall official told the I-Team.
80.5% of all City workers are now fully vaccinated, and 82% have had at least one dose. The overall vaccination rate now includes DWP employees who were not listed in previous reports.
The City has not yet begun to evaluate the thousands of vaccination exemption requests filed by unvaccinated workers, who have been allowed to report to work with twice-weekly negative Covid tests.
The medical and religious exemptions will be considered in the next few weeks.
As of Tuesday 43 fire employees and a handful of LAPD employees had been removed from duty for refusing to engage with the vaccination mandate program, meaning they had neither registered their vaccination status or requested an exemption.
Terrazas also said the City has approved expanded hiring for the fire department with a fourth academy class planned in the coming months.
He said he's also accelerated the graduation of the current class, so about 50 new firefighters will begin work at the end of February.
"We accelerated all the drill tower classes for the remainder of this fiscal year," he said. "So we're, we're making it work. We're making it work."