The City of Los Angeles has decided to cut the frequency of Covid testing for thousands of unvaccinated public employees, including police officers and firefighters, from twice weekly to once weekly, according to memos obtained by the NBC4 I-Team.
Additionally, the City is considering revamping the testing program entirely because of trouble obtaining timely results that can be used to protect coworkers and the public from infection, several senior officials familiar with the discussions told the I-Team.
"There have been major problems," confided one City official knowledgeable about the testing program but who was not authorized to discuss the issues publicly.
The official said in the last month some test kits were lost, others were packaged for shipment to a lab but were never sent or were sent late, and some other test kits may have been intentionally sabotaged by employees.
Workers are being given the test vials and swabs to self-administer, and are supposed to drop the completed tests in a collection bin at their work sites.
Two days after NBC4 first inquired about the reasons for the testing reduction LA Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said it was a result of the falling Covid-19 case rate.
"This pandemic requires us to constantly reassess our methods to ensure we're aligned with the latest guidance from experts and data," emailed Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman.
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"The decision follows the recommendation we received from Cal OSHA, and is a reflection of the declining case positivity rate and the fact that an additional 4,000 employees have been fully vaccinated since we started the testing program," he said.
More than 80% of the City workforce is fully vaccinated.
City employees were required to be fully vaccinated or to have submitted written requests for exemptions by Dec. 18, 2021.
The testing program for unvaccinated workers applies to those who are awaiting decisions on their requests for religious or medical exemptions.
Last week the LAPD said it had terminated one officer for refusing to get vaccinated or request an exemption, and said at least seven other employees were facing possible termination for the same reasons.