Los Angeles' police and fire departments remain at adequate staffing levels to keep residents safe, despite hundreds of personnel quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19, Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference Thursday with the city's police and fire chiefs.
The Los Angeles Police Department, which has about 9,500 sworn officers, currently has 505 officers at home quarantining after testing positive for the virus, Garcetti said. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the average recovery time for LAPD employees to return to work is about three weeks. Only one of the employees off-duty with the virus is hospitalized, however, and that person is in ``extremely grave'' condition, Moore added.
The Los Angeles Fire Department, with a total of nearly 3,800 employees, has 299 sworn and civilian personnel off-duty due the virus. A few weeks ago, only about 24 employees were off-duty due to COVID-19, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said. Throughout the pandemic, a total of 1,475 fire department personnel have tested positive for the virus, and the number of personnel off-duty right now is the highest level the department has seen.
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"These are big numbers, numbers that are reflecting the staffing challenges that all of us face, whether its in the private sector, the public sector and across all of our city departments,'' Garcetti said.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases across the county and within departments tasked with ensuring public safety, Garcetti said Angelenos shouldn't worry that the police and fire departments are unable to respond to calls for service.
"Both LAPD and LAFD have maintained staffing levels that are needed to keep Angelenos safe. Let me repeat that, we've maintained staffing levels to make sure you, your family, our communities are safe,'' Garcetti said.
He added that additional precautions are being taken to ensure public safety needs continue to be met, including the authorization of additional overtime funds to pay employees who cover the shifts of personnel sick with COVID-19.
However, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said that while fire stations are not closed due to the impacts from COVID-19, some stations have less resources than normal, with ambulances and fire engines not being used.
"Our response times have been impacted by our lack of staffing due to COVID,'' Terrazas warned. In 2020 verse 2021, critical advanced life-support response times increased by 13 seconds, while structure fire response times increased by six seconds. Terrazas did not say if there is an additional increase in 2022 due to the omicron surge.
About five out of every six LAFD and LAPD employees are vaccinated, putting the departments slightly over the 82% vaccination rate for all city departments, Garcetti said. Department personnel who have violated the vaccination mandate by not getting vaccinated or submitting exemption requests are on leave without pay. The Los Angeles Fire Department has 41 employees on leave for the violation, and 374 employees have submitted exemption requests.
About 2,000 LAPD employees have submitted religious exemption requests, Moore said. The department is going through the exemptions before turning them over to the personnel department for further review.