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

Long Beach will require its city employees to prove they’re vaccinated or submit to weekly tests for COVID-19, officials announced Tuesday.

“It’s important that public institutions model responsible leadership,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a tweet about the decision.

Long Beach is the latest government entity to mandate vaccines or regular testing for its workers. California announced Monday it would be required for all state workers. And on Tuesday President Joe Biden said that the federal government was considering a vaccine mandate for its workers, according to the Washington Post.

In a memo, Long Beach said 72% of city employees are already vaccinated. That’s in line with the overall population of Long Beach, where 71.9% of adults have received at least one shot, according to data provided by the city.

Some city departments, however, lagged significantly behind that total, with only 56% of police employees, 66% of fire department employees and 62% of public works employees reporting they were fully vaccinated.

In raw numbers, 4,010 Long Beach employees report being fully vaccinated. A total of 347 said they aren’t vaccinated, and another 1,199 said they preferred not to disclose their status, according to the memo written by the city’s director of human resources, Joe Ambrosini.

Some unions representing city workers have been resistant to the idea of a vaccine mandate. Union presidents representing both firefighters and police officers previously told the Long Beach Post they opposed the idea.

On Tuesday, Long Beach Firefighters Association President Rex Pritchard said he was still opposed to a blanket mandate but was OK with requiring regular tests and masks for workers who decline to take the shot.

“We knew this was coming,” he said. “To be honest—I can just speak to me personally—I think it’s reasonable, allowing people to have a choice is reasonable.”

In the fire department, 27% of employees declined to reveal their status, and another 8% said they were not vaccinated, according to Ambrosini’s memo.

The police department had the lowest confirmed vaccination rate, with 40% of LBPD employees declining to reveal their status, and another 4% saying they were not vaccinated.

Vaccination rates among city employees. Courtesy the city of Long Beach.

We will continue to encourage our members to get the vaccine and take all necessary precautions,” Long Beach Police Officers Association president Rich Chambers said. “The City’s mandate was just released and there are a lot of details that need to be worked out. We should know more in the coming days.”

Garcia on Tuesday echoed a recommendation by Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, who urged all cities to require their workforces be vaccinated.

“The standard for those who serve the public must follow the best science available,” Garcia said. “I hope that cities and counties across the state will take similar actions. It’s time we beat this pandemic.”

Long Beach will also apply similar requirements to city commissioners, requiring them to either be vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test prior to any in-person meetings, according to Garcia’s office.

It’s not clear when the mandate will take effect. The city said more details would likely be available around the middle of August, after required meet-and-confer sessions with the city’s employees unions.

Editor’s note: This story originally misstated how the new mandate applies to city commissioners. It’s been corrected to show the city will also require them to be vaccinated or tested.

Long Beach doesn’t yet know how many city employees are vaccinated, hasn’t decided on mandate

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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