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Today’s Headlines: In Houston, hospital workers get fired or quit over vaccines

Texas demonstrators wave at cars to support the protest against Houston Methodist
Demonstrators in Baytown, Texas, wave at cars to support the protest against Houston Methodist.
(Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Getting fired or quitting over vaccines

At least 153 employees of Houston Methodist Hospital — including doctors and nurses — were fired or resigned after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the first mass terminations since vaccinations started in the U.S. this year, reinvigorating a national anti-vaccine movement.

In April, the hospital began requiring vaccination for its more than 25,000 employees across Texas, claiming to be the first hospital in the nation with a COVID vaccine mandate. Those who did not provide proof of vaccination by June 7 — or who had not applied for an exemption based on a “medical condition (including pregnancy deferment) or sincerely held religious belief” — faced suspension without pay for two weeks.

Last month, nurse Jennifer Bridges and 116 other suspended employees sued the hospital in federal court, alleging that COVID-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use were still experimental. The suit argued that mandating the vaccines violated the Nuremberg Code, ethical rules created after World War II to bar the gruesome human experiments conducted by the Nazis.

A Texas federal judge dismissed the employees’ case against the hospital earlier this month, rejecting their argument that the hospital was forcing them to take an experimental vaccine. The Methodist employees appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. While it’s not clear how soon the court will hear the case, it’s already shaping up to become a national legal battle pitting personal medical freedom against public health.

Several major hospitals across the United States require coronavirus vaccinations among staff members. More employers may mandate COVID-19 vaccines once they’re fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, beyond the current authorization for emergency use. Until then, many businesses are still focused on adjusting office configurations. They have also said they want to be sensitive to distribution inequities, allowing more time for people who have struggled to access the vaccine.

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More top coronavirus headlines

— In a sobering sign of the unequal health outcomes of the pandemic, coronavirus case rates are improving at a slower pace for Black and Latino residents of Los Angeles County than for white residents.

— The L.A. Police Commission requested the LAPD report on a possible COVID-19 vaccination mandate and the work assignments of its unvaccinated personnel.

Santa Clara County had the first recorded COVID-19 death in the nation. Now, more than 71% of its residents are at least partially vaccinated against the illness.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Thacher School sex misconduct report stirs rage, betrayal

The Thacher School, one of the nation’s most selective boarding schools, released an extraordinary 91-page report last week that concluded that the high school failed to properly protect its students and alumni.

The report excavated open secrets and long-buried trauma at a boarding school very different from its more buttoned-up East Coast rivals. And the very values that distinguished Thacher created a climate in which boundaries blurred, leaving youths susceptible to grooming by adults, unchecked harassment and alleged sexual assaults, according to the report.

But the public release of the report, paired with letters of contrition from the current head of school, a board of trustees leader and Thacher’s former headmaster, has triggered shock, anger and betrayal at a very private campus that markets itself as a beacon of integrity and decency.

Garcetti’s top aide mocked labor icon Dolores Huerta

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top aide posted sexual innuendo and disparaging comments about city employees and politicians on a private Facebook group that included other mayoral staff and supporters.

On the Facebook group Solid Gold, Garcetti chief of staff Ana Guerrero and other members posted insults about a former council aide and mocking emojis about a gathering of city and state officials.

Guerrero disparaged labor icon Dolores Huerta in Facebook comments reviewed by The Times, saying “I hate her” and using a Spanish term that translates to “jealous old lady.” Huerta was one of several California leaders — including state Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), former Assembly Speaker John Pérez and Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo — to be criticized in the private group.

The Facebook group has come up repeatedly in depositions in a suit against the city filed by Matthew Garza, an LAPD officer who alleges that a Garcetti aide sexually harassed him. The former aide, Rick Jacobs, has denied harassing anyone.

In a statement Tuesday, Garcetti said he had asked Guerrero, his chief of staff, to “step away from her executive management responsibilities in the office.” A Garcetti spokesman said Guerrero would be on “administrative leave for the foreseeable future, unpaid for a month.”

More politics

— Republicans blocked Democrats’ signature election legislation, the For the People Act, a sweeping voting-rights and government reform measure. But with liberal activists priming for a fight, the debate over whether to overhaul the country’s election processes probably isn’t going to end this week.

— Senate Democrats plan to include a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants in the country illegally as part of the sweeping infrastructure bill they hope to enact on a partisan basis this year.

— John Demers, the top national security official at the Department of Justice, says he was unaware federal prosecutors had secretly obtained records concerning Democratic lawmakers.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On June 23, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson arrived at Century City to deliver a speech at a Democratic Party fundraiser. Ten thousand anti-Vietnam War protesters also arrived.

In a 1997 Los Angeles Times article on the incident’s 30th anniversary, staff writer Kenneth Reich reported:

“The war at home over Vietnam had yet to explode in mid-1967. Five hundred American soldiers were dying every month, yet 40% of Americans still supported sending more men.

“So 30 years ago tonight, when a coalition of 80 antiwar groups staged a march to the Century Plaza Hotel where President Lyndon B. Johnson was being honored, Los Angeles Police Department field commander John A. McAllister expected 1,000 or 2,000 protesters....

Ten thousand marchers, by most estimates, were assembling across the street from the Century City hotel.”

A young man resists police demands to disperse during antiwar protests at Century Plaza. He sits bleeding on the ground.
June 23, 1967: A young man resists police demands to disperse during antiwar protests at Century Plaza. After being clubbed, right, he sits bleeding and dazed on the ground.
(Ray Graham / Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— A Black man has filed a lawsuit over what he alleges was an unprovoked beating by six L.A. County sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop last year.

— L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin has committed to removing homeless camps from the Venice boardwalk by early August. In a statement, he said housing and services will be offered to relocate up to 200 people without threats of arrest or incarceration.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than $12.7 million worth of counterfeit goods from Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

— A man who was arrested says he was shoved face-first into a locker by a Hawthorne police officer, causing an injury that ruptured his right eye and left him blind. The incident was captured on video, which the city has yet to make public.

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NATION-WORLD

— The German military has its first rabbi in more than a century after the inauguration of Hungarian-born Zsolt Balla at a synagogue in Leipzig.

— The European Union’s executive branch warned Hungary and Poland that it will take action if they continue to violate the 27-nation bloc’s democratic standards, amid signs that both countries have little intention of changing their ways.

Palestinians and Jewish settlers hurled stones, chairs and fireworks at each other in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood where settler groups tried to evict several Palestinian families.

Afghanistan’s foreign minister accused the Taliban of carrying out its worst violence in the past two decades and urged the international community to persuade the Taliban to honor a February 2020 agreement with the United States to reduce violence and enter peace negotiations.

Hong Kong’s leading independent newspaper, Apple Daily, said it was closing down amid an unprecedented campaign by the Beijing-backed government to silence a popular tabloid at the center of the city’s democracy movement.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Disney has crowned rising star Rachel Zegler as its latest live-action princess for the studio giant’s forthcoming remake of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” And Zegler is not messing around when it comes to evil hags — or trolls — whining about the casting announcement on social media.

— The organization behind the Emmys announced new rule changes. Among them: Nominees can now choose to be identified as a “performer” instead of “actor” or “actress.”

Turner Classic Movies is known as the sanctuary of classic film on TV. Can it survive in a streaming world?

— As a boy, even when the Salvadoran army was laying waste to his hometown and guerrilla rebels were stalking the nearby woods, José Zelaya held fast to his dream. “One day,” he told his mother, “I’m going to work for Mickey Mouse.”

BUSINESS

— Southern California home prices soared in May, hitting another all-time high. But some data are starting to point to a potential slowdown.

Amazon.com Inc.’s takeover of movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will be reviewed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is now led by one of the most prominent critics of dominant technology companies.

SPORTS

— The Clippers were one second away from a Game 2 win before an inbounds play to Deandre Ayton ended with a game-winning dunk. Phoenix leads the series 2-0.

— The Dodgers made it close, but they lost 3-2 to the Padres.

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OPINION

L.A. County should stick with its criminal justice reform measure, writes The Times’ editorial board. The voters have spoken. It’s time to make county investments more effective, equitable and humane.

Vaccination incentives might be effective, but they send the wrong message. If the incentives are making a positive difference right now, then they’re worth it. But that doesn’t mean they’re helping us prepare for the challenges we’ll face in the future, writes Opinion intern Caroline Petrow-Cohen.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill to legalize the use of recreational cannabis in Connecticut and expunge thousands of past convictions for possession. (New York Times)

— How ranked-choice voting could change the way democracy works. Detractors say it confuses voters. Supporters say it better represents the will of the people. (Washington Post)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The world’s top surfers were in Lemoore this weekend for the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro, the final World Surf League event before the Olympics. Surfers included two-time World Surf League world champion Gabriel Medina, Carissa Moore, and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater and more. Photojournalist Allen J. Schaben captured some of the event’s best moments at a surf spot 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham and Laura Blasey. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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