The City of Santa Monica is joining other local cities considering vaccine requirements for the municipal workforce.

City Hall is meeting with the labor organizations that represent the City’s diverse workforce to discuss the impacts of a mandatory vaccination policy and possibly develop a requirement once vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

City officials said the move comes as Los Angeles County experiences a steep surge in cases and as other government organizations roll out similar policies, including Pasadena, San Francisco, New York City, the State of California, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Just as the City of Santa Monica is often a strong model in local government, we do all we can to safeguard the wellbeing of our Santa Monica community and dedicated City workforce,” said Interim City Manager John Jalili. “Vaccination is the very best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and every vaccination will make a measurable difference in our recovery.”

Los Angeles will require city employees to show proof vaccination against COVID-19 or be regularly tested, officials said Tuesday, a policy in line with a new state rule announced by the governor a day earlier.

L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez said the requirement is part of a broader push toward a vaccine mandate for city employees.

They said the requirement is needed because of the growing threat from the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

“This urgent need means that if you’re a city employee, we’re now going to require you to either show that you’re vaccinated or take a weekly test, and we’re committed to pursuing a full vaccine mandate,” Garcetti said in the statement. “I urge employers across Los Angeles to follow this example.”

Garcetti said at an evening news conference that there’s “an alarming spike” of COVID-19 among the city workforce, with 110 new cases in the past week, compared to 34 in the prior week.

Los Angeles city departments will be directed to collect data on vaccination rates and deliver it by Aug. 15, Garcetti said.

The city would pursue a vaccine mandate once the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to the three most commonly used shots.

Long Beach, the second-largest city in Los Angeles County, also announced a similar requirement.

The announcements come after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he will require state employees and millions of health care workers, public and private, to provide proof of vaccination or get regular virus tests.

Under the new state rules, employees who do not provide verification of vaccination must submit to testing once or twice a week and wear a mask while working. Vaccine verification also will be required in jails, homeless shelters and other places where people congregate, Newsom said.

While about 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks. Infections and hospitalizations are rising, with the delta variant now making up an estimated 80% of cases in California, though the growing numbers are still far below the winter peak. Currently, 59% of the Santa Monica workforce has reported they have been vaccinated.

Newsom has been hesitant to reimpose requirements on masks or social distancing since he allowed the state to reopen on June 15. Meanwhile, counties have forged ahead. Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state’s population, is again requiring masks for people in indoor settings, and several other counties have encouraged it.

“Plain and simple – vaccinations are the only way out of this pandemic, and the City of Los Angeles must lead by example,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent transmission and limit COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. If we want our economy to fully recover, if we want our children to be able to go to school without masks on, and if we want the most vulnerable members of our community to not end up in the hospital, we must all do our part. Voluntary efforts have proven to be insufficient to move beyond this pandemic, so it’s time to think differently about our approach, and the City must lead as an example of what can and should be done.”

editor@smdp.com