California to require COVID vaccinations or weekly testing for state, health workers

The state will require all public and private health workers, as well as the state’s 246,000 employees, to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and prove they had the shots, officials announced Monday, July 26, or be subject to at least weekly testing for the virus.

The order comes amid health experts expressing alarm about the highly contagious delta variant, which has contributed, along with slowing vaccination efforts, to increasing cases and hospitalizations in the weeks since California lifted most coronavirus-related restrictions on June 15. The statewide order also follows local efforts, particularly in Los Angeles County — which has seen hospitalizations double in two weeks — to stem the virus’s spread. Pasadena, which has its own health department, preceded the state in announcing it was working on a similar vaccination requirement for its employees. And LA County has reimposed an indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status — with health officials saying “self-attesting” wasn’t working.

Likewise, California’s new order means health and state workers will no longer be allowed to “self-attest” that they were vaccinated.

“Because too many people have chosen to live with this virus,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, “we’re at a point in this pandemic where individuals’ choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us, and in a profound and devastating and deadly way.”

The announcement drew praise from the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents more than 15,000 healthcare workers at hospitals, nursing homes and medical clinics in California.

“This action will save lives by reducing the risk of the virus spreading among caregivers and people seeking care,” the union’s president, Sal Rosselli, said in a statement. “If we have learned anything over the past year and a half, it’s that our healthcare system cannot function when hospitals are too short-handed to effectively serve patients fighting for their lives.”

Indeed, several healthcare leaders recently said the region’s hospitals could still be overrun once again if the current increase in cases didn’t stop.

The new policy for state workers will take effect Monday, Aug. 2, and testing will be phased in over the next few weeks. The new policy for health care workers, which also applies to high-risk congregate settings — like adult and senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails — will take effect the following week, on Aug. 9. Health care facilities will have two weeks after that — until Aug. 23 — to fully comply.

California is not alone in taking action to try and contain the virus. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a similar requirement on Monday, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough also announced he will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all health care personnel who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities.

It appears the mandates have widespread support in the medical community, both nationwide and in Southern California. Dozens of health care organizations, including the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association signed a joint statement calling for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers, as many employers already do for influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis.

But not every hospital in the region is ready to require vaccinations.

“Lakewood Regional Medical Center supports vaccinations for the community and our employees,” hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Bayer said Monday. “We are not requiring employees to receive vaccinations while the vaccinations are still under an emergency use authorization. We are closely monitoring trends and are making adjustments daily to ensure our staff, physicians and patients are protected.”

It is worth noting, however, that even though the three available vaccines have not received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they did undergo rigorous evaluations before receiving emergency use authorization, according to both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC, in fact, says on its website that the vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials and as of July 19, 383 million doses have been administered nationwide.

Representatives of other Southern California facilities, meanwhile, said they were already looking into how to implement the new state requirement.

Providence Southern California has already drafted a policy requiring employees and physicians to show proof of vaccination or, for those who are not vaccinated, to sign formal declinations, spokeswoman Patricia Aidem said.

“We are reviewing other requirements of the new mandate and will determine how best to implement them,” Aidem said. “We know this is a difficult issue, but we must take steps to stop this pandemic. We are committed to educating our employers and the public about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and the importance as cases again escalate.”

Eileen Neuwirth, executive director of communications at Huntington Hospital, in Pasadena, also said that facility was already working to come into compliance.

“The health and safety of our hospital workforce and our patients is our overarching priority,” Neuwirth said. “We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated, as vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19.”

And Felipe Osorno, executive administrator of continuum of care operations at Keck Medicine of USC, said the medical center is fully on board.

Related Articles


Coronavirus: Orange County reported 1,351 new cases and one new death over the weekend


COVID outbreak leaves Indians mired in massive medical debt


California to require COVID vaccinations for health workers


With COVID surge, US to keep travel restrictions for now


COVID deaths soar when eviction moratoriums end, UCLA study finds

“We welcome this announcement,” he said. “It’s very much in line with a policy we have in development right now and in line with what we’re seeing with many hospitals throughout the country.”

Currently, 84% of hospital staff and 87% of physicians are vaccinated at Keck, Osorno said. With the upcoming mandate and more strict requirements, he added, the hospital could probably expect to reach 90%.

Moving forward, Keck will only allow religious and medical exemptions with signed forms, eliminating a current blanket exemption for personal reasons, Osorno said.

He added the state action — rather than relying on hospitals to implement their own policies — will likely make the requirement more effective.

“With the vaccine, it’s been controversial whether you can mandate it or not,” Osorno said, “but when it comes from the state level, it gives hospitals more political and public support.”

It’s unclear how many local governments in the Southland will follow suit with their own vaccination requirements for employees.

But Pasadena, one of a handful of cities in the state that runs its own health department, already had plans in the works. Officials announced last week that the city was working on its own mandate for city employees to be vaccinated, and City Manager Steve Mermell said Monday, July 26, that he supports the state’s efforts.

“The more employers, public and private, that take such action, will make it easier to slow the spread of COVID,” he said, “which is rising faster than at any time previously during the pandemic.”

Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, meanwhile, noted on Monday that statistics from last October are eerily similar to what the region witnessed last week.

“We know what happened post-October; we had to endure a shutdown that tremendously affected our local economy and that was devastating to children who couldn’t attend school,” Gordo said. “And I think it would be negligent for us to look back two months from now and start having a discussion for more drastic measures instead of employing the tools that we know are effective today.”

Representatives for Long Beach, which also runs its own health department, said in a statement that the city is “reviewing the new guidance to consider how it may affect requirements for City employees.” But Long Beach will align with the new requirements on health care facilities and other high-risk settings, the statement said.

Orange County spokeswoman Molly Nichelson, meanwhile, said officials couldn’t comment on whether similar requirements would be put in place for county employees. Nichelson said they were waiting for more details on the guidance from the state, including what is the definition of a health care worker.

“We really have to see that guidance documentation that comes out from the state,” she said, “before we can comment on anything.”

Officials with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department also declined to say whether a similar mandate would go into effect for county workers there.

“We appreciate the Governor’s leadership,” the department said in a statement, and are “looking forward to working with the LA County Board of Supervisors on implementing strategies to enhance safety at the workplace and support vaccinations, our most powerful tool for ending the pandemic.”

Staff writers Brennon Dixson, David Rosenfeld and Tess Sheets contributed to this report.

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

Ban on plastics use at beaches and parks in Laguna Beach is now in effect

A ban on single-use plastic containers and straws in Laguna Beach parks and on its beaches and trails went into effect last week, as city officials hope to curb pollution made worse by the thousands of people who visit the seaside town daily during the summer and rest of the year.

Early offenses will come with a warning and education, but people could later face an administrative citation, the new law says.

The new restrictions on the use of plastics, which also target plastic take-out bags and utensil sleeves, are part of the Neighborhood & Environmental Protection Plan city leaders approved earlier this year to address the impact the more than 6 million annual visitors to Laguna Beach can have on its residents. New rules also include not feeding wild birds, and the city will also start closing parks earlier at 10 p.m. and increase the cleaning of some beaches and other public areas. The city is spending about $2 million on its efforts.

The enhanced plastics ban is the first of its kind in Orange County – there are 38 cities in California that ban single-use plastics. In 2007, Laguna Beach also became OC’s first city to ban Styrofoam or polystyrene.

“Plastic waste is an enormous source of ocean pollution and we hope this ordinance sets an

People walk along the sand at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, CA on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. The city council recently approved changes to the municipal code to address negative impacts of visitors to the town. Some of the changes restrict the feeding of wild birds, single-use straws on beaches and trailheads and prohibit the abandonment of personal property in public spaces. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A man feeds a gull at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, CA on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. The city council recently approved changes to the municipal code to address the negative impacts of visitors to the town. Some of the changes restrict the feeding of wild birds, single-use straws on beaches and trailheads and the use of enclosed shade structures on the beach. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Laguna Beach is protecting its coastline. On June 15, the city institituted a new ban on single-use plastics distribution and use. (Photo by Lisa Gallick for the Orange County Register)

With plastics washing into the ocean at unprecedented levels, state and federal lawmakers are increasingly reduce their one-time usage. (File photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

of

Expand

example for all coastal cities,” Mayor Bob Whalen said. “We have been working with our restaurants and they have been very willing to work with us. The city realizes plastics won’t go away overnight and we are already working to educate our local businesses and beachgoers as to where they can find plastic-free products.”

City officials have embarked on a marketing program and sent a letter to each restaurant operating in town. For some, making the change will be easier than for others.

Laurent Vrignaud, who operates Moulin, a French restaurant on the Promenade at Forest, said the switchover won’t be a problem.

“Whatever the rules are, we obey them,” he said. “I just go along with the flow.”

It’s easy for him because his food for years has already been packaged in bio-degradable containers and paper products. His silverware is made from potato starch, he said.

Vrignaud already isn’t a fan of to-go service, he said. “I come culture where you don’t consume food on the go.”

But not far down the promenade, another restaurateur isn’t so happy with the city’s new law.

“I’m all for protecting the environment,” said Alessandro Pirozzi, who operates Alessa, an Italian restaurant. “But, this will decrease our already little margin of profit. It will be difficult to find new products. We are looking for alternatives for hot food that can be microwaved, but we really don’t know what to do.”

Councilman Peter Blake said he is happy with the city’s efforts to combat the plastics problem.

“I’m disgusted by the amount of plastics on the beach,” he said. “This gives everyone – residents, restaurants and tourists – an opportunity to understand that we are all stewards of the bluebelt and the greenbelt. Just like we did with the smoking ban, we give people a chance. If you’re eating a salad from a single-use container, you’ll get a warning, but next time, please don’t do it anymore. It’s the big picture of how we protect our oceans.”

Blake said it’s his hope the new laws will bring about change.

“For me, I’m looking for compliance,” he said, adding that on Friday he stopped police officers to point out large shade structures along Main Beach. Those are also now prohibited because they interrupt the sight lines for lifeguards whose job is to oversee safety along the shore.

Storing bikes at beaches or local parks also is no longer allowed. And leaving unattended belongings at these public places is also a no-no.

New weekend crews will focus on litter pickups in some of the town’s most visited areas, such as South Laguna, North Laguna, the Top of the World neighborhood and along Coast Highway. The city is also increasing its trash collection services. And, more trash containers have been added in areas of the city where visitor use is high.

Charlotte Maserik, a board member of the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, which works to protect local beaches and marine life, applauds the city’s efforts.

“The no-smoking ordinance has made a huge difference on our beaches and ocean since its inception a couple of years ago,” she said of the reduction seen in cigarette butts.

“Laguna Beach has always fought for and believed in environmental sustainability, and the banning of single-use plastics on our beaches is in keeping with our commitment to protecting our beaches and the sea life dependent on a healthy ocean,” she said.

Hoiyin Ip, a Dana Point resident, has spent the last several years advocating for no-smoking and plastics bans at city councils in coastal communities.

“The timing of the ban is great,” she said. “It became effective in Plastic Free July. And since the Festival of Arts is on city property, many visitors get to witness the change.”

Related Articles


What the camera sees at a make-shift watering hole in Caspers Wilderness Park


More than 100 dead, waters still rising in Europe


At least 40 killed by severe flooding in Europe


El Segundo and Dockweiler beaches reopen following 17-million gallon sewage spill


Soil removal continues in Portola Hills as stench wanes

Angels’ Anthony Rendon still two weeks from return to lineup

ANAHEIM — Anthony Rendon’s frustrating season isn’t getting any better.

The third baseman was expected to miss just a day or two with a hamstring strain suffered on July 5, and then after he was placed on the injured list he was expected back right after the break.

On Friday, before the Angels played their first game after the break, Manager Joe Maddon said Rendon has not made as much progress as they hoped, and he’ll be about two more weeks.

“Just that rehab process isn’t going as great as we want it,” Rendon said on Friday. “So we’re gonna take a little more time just to kind of figure it out and how we’re going to take it from here on out for the last two and a half months. We didn’t want to rush it back to come back playing where I know I’m not 100 percent or 90 percent, and then it might lead to losing the last two months of the year. So we’re trying to play it smart.”

This is the third time Rendon has been on the injured list this season, and all three times he’s been out longer than initially expected. He suffered a groin strain on April 10 and ended up missing 11 games. He missed nine games after fouling a ball off his left knee on May 3.

Besides all of that, Rendon has hit .240 with six home runs and a .712 OPS.

“It’s definitely frustrating, to say the least,” Rendon said.

Maddon acknowledged that Rendon has been out longer than the initial reports each time, but he had no explanation.

“I can’t deny that,” Maddon said. “The hammy thing we thought was just going to be a couple days, and we’re here right now. I don’t have a solid answer for you. Whenever I tell you stuff, that’s exactly what I’m hearing from the training room and the players.

“This is a little bit longer than we anticipated, but at the end of the day, you want to make sure that the player is well before he comes back. I don’t want anybody going out there and being less than 100 percent.”

TROUT, UPTON UPDATES

Mike Trout, who is out with a strained calf, is still improving, but Maddon isn’t sure when he will start his rehab assignment or return to the lineup.

“The report from the doctor is that he’s getting close to 100 percent,” Maddon said. “Once that occurs, you have to see him go through baseball activities, like running the bases hard, moving quickly and hard, and then of course playing some games. I’m saying he’s close, but I don’t know the exact date.”

Maddon estimated that Trout would be back before Rendon, so sometime before the end of July.

Upton, who is out with a strained back, went through a “really good” batting practice session on Thursday, Maddon said.

“I hate putting a finish line on it,” Maddon said. “It seems like it’s not going to be far away, but it has been, so let’s wait and see.”

EATON ARRIVES

Adam Eaton, who signed with the Angels on Wednesday, was the starting right fielder on Friday. Maddon said that he expects the veteran to “play a lot. Against a tough lefty, I’ll give someone else a shot to keep everybody else solvent, but I’ll get him out there are often as possible.”

Related Articles


Shohei Ohtani donates Home Run Derby earnings to Angels support staff


Hoornstra: How All-Star week, amateur draft offered glimpses of MLB’s future


Angels sign veteran outfielder Adam Eaton


It’s 60 For 30: Footnotes on the first half of the 2021 MLB season


Angels bank on improved pitching, return of Mike Trout to make second-half run

Eaton hit .201 with a .642 OPS with the Chicago White Sox, who designated him for assignment. Maddon said he believes the 33-year-old still has productive days left.

“Very good defensive player and he’s a very good arm,” Maddon said. “I know his offense was down a little bit in Chicago, but we researched that and we feel pretty good about being able to help him. He adds a lot of energy. He’s been a world champion recently (with the 2019 Nationals). I like all that. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I love the way he plays the game a lot.”

The Angels optioned utility man Jose Rojas on Thursday to make room for Eaton.

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Alex Cobb, 6-3, 4.23 ERA) vs. Mariners (LHP Yusei Kikuchi, 6-4, 3.48), Saturday, 6:07 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

OC sheriff agrees not to penalize deputies who refuse to testify under Fifth Amendment

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has agreed not to take disciplinary action against deputies who refuse to testify for fear of self-incrimination, otherwise known as pleading the Fifth Amendment.

The agreement settles a federal lawsuit brought against the department by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. The suit was filed after the Sheriff’s Department made threats against now retired Deputies Seth Tunstall, William Grover and Ben Garcia, who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights on Oct. 8, 2015, while being questioned about killer Scott Dekraai during a hearing into the use of jailhouse informants.

Dekraai fatally shot eight people at a Seal Beach beauty salon in 2011 after fighting with his wife over child custody issues.

Tunstall, Grover and Garcia, who managed a jailhouse informant used against Dekraai, were labeled untruthful by a judge during their earlier testimony and refused to testify any further. The judge in the Dekraai case accused the deputies of intentionally misleading the court about how the informant operation worked and the existence of documentation.

Union officials argued law enforcement officers have the same constitutional rights as civilians and are similarly entitled to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“Department members will not be subject to questioning, a personnel investigation or discipline,” said a memo from the union, issued after the settlement.

Alexa Pratt, a spokesperson for the union, added: “Deputies have the same rights as private citizens. Although rare, on occasion our deputies may be advised to invoke their Fifth Amendment right for a variety of legal reasons, including protecting innocent deputies from false allegations.”

Jaimee Blashaw, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department, said the agency would never violate the deputies’ right to invoke the Fifth.

“The department’s expectation is for employees to present honest and effective testimony, as it remains an important aspect of the criminal justice process,” Blashaw said. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has never disciplined any employee for the lawful exercise of their Fifth Amendment rights. We strive to protect the constitutional rights of everyone — department members and the public alike.”

But Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy, was killed by Dekraai, said deputies who refuse to testify are not doing their jobs and shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

“You take the Fifth for one reason — because you’re guilty and you don’t want to give further incrimination,” Wilson said. “For Don Barnes to allow his deputies to take the Fifth shows a lack of leadership.”

Related Articles


OC sheriff protected detective who repeatedly mishandled evidence, legal motion claims


Twin brothers — former OC sheriff’s deputies — plead guilty to defrauding taxpayers

California has a real segregation problem

Deeply blue California’s top political figures, from the governor downward, portray the state as a model of multicultural integration.

In fact, however, as a new study from UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute reveals, most California metropolitan areas have high levels of racial segregation in housing and it has become more pronounced over the last two decades.

Oddly, too, California’s segregation tends to be highest in areas most likely to lean to the left politically.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area, the study found, is the nation’s sixth most segregated region of 200,000 residents or more. Other California areas with high levels of segregation include San Francisco-Oakland (25th), San Diego (38th), San Jose (45th) and Sacramento (82nd).

Of the 11 California regions on the report’s “high segregation” list, only two, Bakersfield (37th) and Fresno (72nd), hew to the right politically. The San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles area, which also is somewhat conservative politically, is one of only two regions in the nation deemed to be highly integrated, the other being Colorado Springs, which is a Republican bastion.

Okay, so California is not the exemplar of integration it often pretends to be. But isn’t the state trying to make its housing patterns more inclusive?

Officially, yes. State housing guidelines and recent legislation seek more integration of multi-family housing into what have been exclusively single-family neighborhoods as determined by local zoning laws. A mixture of housing types, it’s argued, would create more neighborhood diversity.

Those efforts, however, have faced stiff opposition in suburban communities where single-family homes predominate, with the fiercest resistance in suburbs dominated by Democratic voters, such as Marin County.

The outcome of California’s housing war remains in doubt. However, as California pursues — at least on paper — more integration in housing, it seems to be encouraging more segregation in political representation through a concept called “community of interest” or COI.

When California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by a statewide ballot measure, first tackled the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts in 2011, it assumed that one of its jobs was to identify COIs and make them a dominant factor in redistricting.

The commission is just beginning to do its work again, using still-to-be-released data from the 2020 census, and is putting even more emphasis on COIs, although how to define them remains uncertain.

The current commission is staging “COI input meetings” around the state and seeking participation but admits in its latest invitation that “there are no clear rules on how to define a community of interest.”

It’s assumed that under federal law, redistricting plans must not inhibit the ability of ethnic and racial groups to elect representatives. To insulate the new maps from legal challenge, the commission will use data on concentrations of potential voters (over the age of 18 and citizens) to create “majority-minority” districts that, in effect, preordain the election of legislators and congressional members from the designated communities.

Although California’s overall population has seen only scant growth over the last decade, whites have continued to decline proportionately while Latino and Asian populations have increased. Thus, as the state’s leading redistricting expert, Paul Mitchell, has written, “it’s more likely than ever that the data will tell (the commission) there are more majority-minority districts that need to be drawn than ever in light of heightened segregation within our cities and counties.”

So on one hand, California officialdom says it wants to lessen segregation in housing, but on the other hand it wants to reinforce racial and ethnic segregation in legislative and congressional districts. That’s California in a nutshell.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to Commentary.