Nearly a month after the city of LA's employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate took effect no city-administered testing of unvaccinated employees has taken place, leaving other city workers and members of the public at greater risk of being exposed to the virus.
As of Monday Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said about 11,600 city employees were either unvaccinated, unwilling to share their vaccination status, or were in the process of requesting a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine.
The twice-weekly testing for those workers had been set to begin the week of October 24, but the system for administering the tests and managing the data was as of Monday, "still being set up by the City Personnel Department," according to a senior city official not authorized to speak publicly.
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"This is about giving departments a little bit of time to work through some final details of a complex, interim testing program that will launch very soon," Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman told the I-Team late Monday in an email.
"Nevertheless employees must be vaccinated by December 18 and anyone who refuses should be prepared to lose their job," he said.
Over the weekend city workers were notified that the Covid-19 testing for unvaccinated employees, which after several delays had been promised to start Monday, Nov. 15, had been postponed indefinitely.
"Currently, the new start date has not been determined," said one message sent to LAPD officers.
Garcetti's office said Monday 41,605 employees were now fully vaccinated, or about 77% of the total workforce.
The City set out its vaccine mandate framework in mid October. It required unvaccinated employees to undergo twice-weekly tests, at the employees' own expense and on the employees' own time, through a city provider.
The unvaccinated employees were required to register with the testing contractor, called PPS Health, Inc. and Bluestone Safe, and had $260 deducted from their bi-monthly paychecks to fund the tests.
The unions that represent most city workers have objected to the mandatory testing protocol and paycheck deductions, which were imposed by the city after it notified an Employee Relations Board in late October that it had reached an impasse in negotiations with the unions, specifically with making a Covid-19 vaccination a condition of employment. The Employee Relations Board is an arm of city government designed to mediate labor disputes.
Several employee unions registered formal objections, and the union that represents LAPD officers sued claiming the City violated labor rules in imposing the mandate.
Last week an LA Superior Court Judge denied the police union's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the vaccination rules and proposed testing, but the judge set a hearing for Dec. 8 on the union's complaints, including an accusation that the testing company selected by the City was partially owned by a physician that Garcetti appointed to a city pension commission in 2017.
The City has denied wrongdoing in the selection process, and said PPS Health/Bluestone was the best choice among 7 companies considered.
The union that represents LA City firefighters, UFLAC, has also sued and has asked a judge to stop the vaccination mandate, also alleging that the city imposed the rules and enforcement plan in violation of collective bargaining laws.
In court papers the city has denied both unions' accusations, and said it bargained in good faith with employee labor groups for months before enforcing the mandate beginning on October 19.