Long Beach leaders consider indoor vaccine mandate in anticipation of upcoming LA County decision

Some Long Beach City Council members signaled support for an indoor vaccination requirement Tuesday night, something that could come to Los Angeles County in the next few weeks, according to city health officials

Leaders from the city’s health department presented data to the City Council Tuesday night about vaccine and infection rates as well as other policies being considered, or already adopted, in the region. However, they said that the city would prefer a regional approach to a vaccination policy to provide continuity for both businesses and customers.

“Some jurisdictions are mandating vaccinations to push people toward getting vaccine so they’re incorporating a broader spectrum of businesses,” said Long Beach Health and Human Services director Kelly Colopy. “We are working on an approach that focuses primarily on safety and addressing risk.”

Colopy said that the city is discussing the details of such a policy, including which businesses would be affected, what enforcement would include as well as the city’s ability to enforce one.

The city has issued just over 120 citations to people and businesses for violating city health orders during the first 14 months of the pandemic, according to records obtained by the Post earlier this year.

Colopy said that enforcing a vaccine mandate, which could require new technology to read QR codes, could be a challenge.

“We have hundreds of bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment businesses and enforcement takes time and resources,” Colopy said.

There is support on the City Council for the city’s health officer to look into a mandate like the ones already passed in San Francisco and New York as well as the one being considered by the city of Los Angeles.

However, members said any mandate should be crafted equitably, and should not bar under-vaccinated populations from going to the grocery store or seeking medical attention.

Councilman Rex Richardson said he supports a mandate, particularly if it keeps the economy from shutting down again and hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“My philosophy on this is that I’d rather take a pill to offset a heart attack,” Councilman Rex Richardson said. “To me, wearing a mask, getting the vaccination, that’s taking a pill to offset a massive cardiac arrest.”

Councilwoman Cindy Allen said she was encouraged by the private sector implementing their own mandates and noted the Las Vegas Raiders, which became the first NFL team to require proof of vaccination to attend its home games. The team uses an application called “Clear” that uses facial recognition and scans a person’s driver’s license and vaccination card to verify their status.

“I think these mandates work, they encourage people to get vaccinated,” Allen said.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are expected to discuss its potential mandate at its Aug. 31 meeting and Colopy said she anticipates some sort of an order to be issued in the coming weeks due to rising cases across the county.

Long Beach’s case counts (36 per 100,000 residents) and positivity rate (7.3%) are both substantially higher than the county’s figures. Hospitalizations and deaths have also begin to tick up in the city with Long Beach’s death total reaching 969 as of Tuesday.

Colopy said that there has been an increase in vaccinations in the city since July 15 when the county and city reinstated indoor masking policies for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons amid a surge in the delta variant.

Since then, Colopy said that daily average of vaccine doses being administered has climbed to 622 residents per day, a 72% increase.

Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer, explained that breakthrough infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain very rare, with each occurring in less than 1% of the vaccinated population.

However, Davis said that the delta variant remains a threat for the unvaccinated as it’s been shown to be up to four times as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19 that begin infecting people in March 2020.

Mayor Robert Garcia praised the city’s institutions for being among the first to require vaccines for city workers, teachers and health care workers and encouraged others to get vaccinated.

Garcia added that the city would favor public health over personal choice.

“The one thing we need to keep in mind and at least I believe in this strongly, not everybody does, but the public good always trumps personal liberty,” Garcia said.

After weeks of increased hospitalizations, Long Beach’s COVID-19 deaths are on the rise

While other cities look at indoor vaccine requirements, Long Beach says it will look to the state for direction

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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