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California police departments push back against vaccine mandates

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva recently warned that the county’s vaccine mandate is causing a “mass exodus” in his department.
(Josie Norris / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Nov. 2. I’m Justin Ray.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva recently warned that the county’s vaccine mandate is causing a “mass exodus” in his department. Meanwhile, the union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers has filed a lawsuit against the city over how it rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

“I have repeatedly stated the dangers to public safety when 20%-30% of my workforce is no longer available to provide service, and those dangers are quickly becoming a reality,” Villanueva said in a statement he posted on social media.

Across the country, law enforcement agencies have pushed back against vaccine mandates. Just yesterday, a judge suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for Chicago police officers to be vaccinated — the latest development in possibly the most publicized battle between a city and a police department.

Cops eschewing the shot are in a particularly precarious position because officers are largely unable to social distance or work from home. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which has been tracking law enforcement deaths nationwide.

The LAPD isn’t the only department in the Golden State pushing back against vaccine mandates. None have seen widespread resignations, but many have indicated that losing officers due to the shot requirement could mean straining already reduced staff at departments.

San Francisco

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Mayor London Breed announced late last week that more than 97% of San Francisco municipal employees are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

However, 970 of the city’s nearly 35,000-person workforce hadn’t received shots or reported their vaccine status ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline. The San Francisco Police department provided a graph to The Times that said that, while 2,738 are compliant with the mandate, 79 remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Those currently in between their first and second shots have until Nov. 12 to fulfill the requirement, according to CBS San Francisco.

San Jose

Just as a vaccine mandate was due to take effect in early October, the city of San Jose reached a deal with the San Jose Police Officers Assn. and other city employee unions concerning workers who have declined to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Under the agreement, they could remain shotless but would be required to submit to a COVID-19 test twice a week and at some point within the next month serve a 40-hour unpaid suspension.

At the time the deal was struck, the mandate impacted about 150 police officers who had chosen not to be vaccinated. However, a spokesperson for the San Jose Police Officers Assn. told The Times that this number is now in the single digits after dozens either got the shot or obtained a religious exemption. It wasn’t clear how many chose the former or the latter.

San Diego

San Diego officials initially said city workers had to be vaccinated by Nov. 2, but then pushed back the deadline to Dec. 1. The extra time allowed labor negotiations to continue over whether unvaccinated workers will be fired, suspended or face some other fate.

The police union has been lobbying city leaders to abandon the vaccine mandate in favor of a looser policy, such as requiring unvaccinated workers to get tested weekly and to wear masks indoors, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The paper reported that as of late Sept., 53% of the SDPD were vaccinated.

“Some of our members — many who have already endured COVID-19 at some point over the past year and a half — have reservations about forced vaccinations,” the San Diego Police Officers Assn. Board of Directors said in a statement to The Times. “The result of such a mass departure would be devastating to our department and the safety of all San Diego citizens.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Lactating and vaccinated: Parents delay weaning children to pass on COVID-19 antibodies. Mireya Tecpaxohitl Gonzalez is used to the stares at the grocery store when she breastfeeds her 3-year-old son. And before you judge her: She’s not doing it for attention, and her kids are not spoiled because she continues breastfeeding them. The Panorama City mom has always been an advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding. Although she received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this year, the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty about when young children will be eligible for a vaccine made her worried. But she read online research that showed the antibodies from the vaccine could be passed through breast milk. Los Angeles Times

Mireya Tecpaxohitl Gonzalez, 32, carries her son as her daughter, a first-grader, does math homework.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

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L.A. STORIES

The MLB and Trevor Bauer’s potential suspension. In the six years of Major League Baseball’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, the commissioner’s office and player representatives have reached individual agreements for the 14 player suspensions levied under the policy. The suspensions have ranged from 15 games to 162 games — that is, from 9% to 100% of a season. The possibility that Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer could be suspended under that policy — and could be the first player to appeal rather than settle — could raise a thorny question for an independent arbitrator: Just what is the appropriate length of a suspension? Los Angeles Times

How an unusually approachable fitness guru became one of the pandemic’s biggest stars. The Times’ Meredith Blake explains how Peleton put instructor Cody Rigsby on the map. According to social media metrics, he is the exercise company’s most popular teacher, with nearly a million Instagram followers. His 30-minute Britney Spears class has been taken 650,000 times and counting — more than any other of the same length. His newfound fame hasn’t been easy. “I have to put a little bit more of a guard up now,” he says via video conference from Los Angeles, where he’s capping off a life-changing year with a stint on “Dancing With the Stars.” Los Angeles Times

Cody Rigsby, Peloton instructor
Cody Rigsby, the Peloton instructor who rose to fame during the pandemic.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

A California town refused to help its neighbors with water. So the state stepped in. The plight of Tooleville, with wells running dry, inspired a new law that gives the state power to mandate water consolidation with a neighboring town. Called the “proactive water solutions bill,” SB 403 gives the state the power to mandate and fund consolidation when there is an at-risk water system. The city of Exeter’s refusal to aid Tooleville may have given hope to the more than 1 million Californians who live in communities without clean, affordable drinking water, which by law in California is a basic human right. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Two street vendors in Sacramento County were killed recently after a driver jumped a curb and struck them, according to the California Highway Patrol. An 18-year-old woman admitted she was trying to beat the traffic light signal while making a left turn. “She said she was trying to make the yellow light,” a CHP spokesperson said. “Essentially, she takes the turn a little bit too fast and loses control of the vehicle and collides with the two vendors.” The two vendors were identified as 60-year-old Sheila and 56-year-old Ethel, of Carmichael. KCRA

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Mother grieves for son who slipped through society’s safety net for the homeless and mentally ill. Rebecca Reinig said she pleaded with the hospital not to discharge her son. “I’m telling her, ‘He’s going to die if he’s on the street,’” Reinig said she told a staff member. She begged the hospital, Aurora Behavioral Health Care in Rancho Bernardo, to request a 72-hour psychiatric hold for her son rather than release him to the streets, but that didn’t happen. One morning she called and found out that Aurora staff had dropped Joseph off the day before at a CVS store where he had a prescription. On Oct. 6, Joseph Reinig’s body was found along a hillside in Oceanside, about five miles east of the CVS store. San Diego Union-Tribune

Marin County lifted its indoor mask mandate on Monday, making it the first in the Bay Area to stop requiring face coverings in almost all public places. The county said it had hit aggressive vaccination goals and reported consistently low COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, making it eligible under previously announced criteria to drop the mandate. “We established these criteria to ensure that conditions were in place for us to take this step when we were ready. And we’re ready,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the county health officer. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Rent in Palm Springs is at an all-time high this year. “Rent is up. One-bedroom rent prices are up about 30% and two-bedrooms are up about 10%,” said Brian Carberry, managing editor of Rent.com. “Rent prices do slowly climb up year over year but not at the rates we’re seeing now.” The rising cost of renting in the area is raising fears of a worsening homelessness problem in the city. Along with seeking financial assistance, experts also encourage the community to advocate for affordable housing at city council meetings. NBC Palm Springs

Can Jake Paul fight his way out of trouble? I am a big fan of publications covering unexpected subjects. While Jake Paul definitely has a profile big enough to attract an outlet like the New Yorker, it still feels odd to see the legacy outlet cover the polarizing YouTube star. This story explains how Paul cashes in on his notoriety by selling tickets to both his supporters and the people who want to see him brutalizing opponents in the ring. Paul has abandoned the Los Angeles nightlife for places like Big Bear Lake, Las Vegas, and Puerto Rico to train and lay the groundwork for his new career. New Yorker

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Cloudy, 73. San Diego: Sunny, 70. San Francisco: 66 San Jose: Cloudy, 72. Fresno: Sunny, 74. Sacramento: Find something that makes you happy as this cat that collects rocks. Sunny, 69.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Charles D Brown:

Summer of 1969: Air Force Academy soon to be sophomores were on a tour of bases in the United States. We visited what was then Norton AFB, Riverside, California, my first time in California. All nine hundred or so of us were bused to Disneyland for the day. Most people had no idea who we were in our Academy uniforms. When asked, our standard answer was we were part of the Belgium Balloon Corps on a visit to the United States.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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