LBCC to require vaccines or regular COVID testing; LBUSD still discussing possible mandate

Long Beach City College will require teachers, staff and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of classes in August or be subject to weekly testing, officials announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Long Beach Unified—the city’s largest employer—will not require vaccinations yet, but Superintendent Jill Baker on Wednesday “strongly encouraged” the campus community to get the vaccine by the start of classes on Aug. 31.

“Right now, it is not a mandate to provide proof of vaccination. That is under discussion,” Baker said.

LBCC Superintendent-President Mike Munoz said the fact that the 18-34 age group is lagging in vaccinations means it’s important to send the message they aren’t immune to the virus.

“This virus has been hitting young people particularly hard,” he said at a media briefing Wednesday at Cal State Long Beach.

City data shows 53% of the 18-34 age group has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine compared to 99% of local seniors.

Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after the CSU system said anyone using campus facilities will be required to show proof of vaccination or agree to regular tests. The city of Long Beach will also require its employees, as well as health care workers, to follow similar rules.

With 20,000 students expected to return to class on Aug. 23, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said she did not want the campus community to “become a danger to our Long Beach community.”

The heads of all three educational institutions in Long Beach said they estimate about 70% of faculty and staff have been vaccinated, but that data was still being collected. Officials expected those numbers to be finalized over the next few weeks.

Baker said in a video announcement two days ago that the district would not be doing “surveillance testing” when classes begin.

Jill Baker, Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent, talks to the media on the first day of in-person school at Alvarado Elementary School in Signal Hill Monday, March 29, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

She said masks would be required indoors on campuses, and that everyone would be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

But cities and many other employers around the state have quickly implemented vaccination requirements as the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has spread. The Biden Administration is also considering whether to implement the same mandate at the federal level.

In Long Beach, the rate of new cases per 100,000 residents has risen to 22.4 from a low of just 1 on June 18.

Officials say loosened restrictions since the state largely opened up on June 15, the more contagious delta variant, and the lack of vaccinations among residents has spurred the troubling rise in cases.

In Long Beach, 69% of residents 12 and older have been vaccinated. Data released Tuesday showed the confirmed vaccination rates among workers in some city departments are far lower than that.

The police, fire and public works departments have the lowest vaccination rates of all departments; just 51% of sworn officers and 58% of firefighters reported they’d gotten the shots. Many declined to say whether they were vaccinated. Overall, the rate is much better, with 72% of city workers saying they are vaccinated.

Mayor Robert Garcia said Wednesday that it is important for city workers to set an example in the midst of this pandemic.

“The standard of what’s expected of us is higher,” he said. “People are looking to us for leadership.”

Long Beach will require proof of vaccination or regular testing for city workers

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.