LOS ANGELES (CN) — A Los Angeles County judge cleared the way Tuesday for LA dock the pay of and eventually terminate firefighters who refuse to comply with the city's Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield made his tentative ruling official, writing in an opinion that the city's mandate — that all city employees get vaccinated or apply for a medical or personal belief exemption — did not violate the firefighters' due process rights. The city can continue to keep the firefighters on leave without pay while continuing the process of terminating their contracts.
"It cannot be seriously argued that the city did not have sufficient evidence to declare a state of emergency," Linfield wrote. "Evidence of fire station Covid-19 outbreaks merely underscores the fact that the Covid-19 global pandemic continues to upend daily life and threaten public safety."
Firefighters4Freedom, a nonprofit representing 105 firefighters in the city of LA who are defying the vaccine mandate, asked Linfield to block the mandate on the grounds it violates their medical freedom. Their suit can still continue, but the plaintiffs will continue to go unpaid and they may soon be fired.
"I am disappointed with the analysis and result," said Firefighters4Freedom attorney Scott Street in an email. "But, as the judge mentioned yesterday, this is just the beginning of the case and we expect much more litigation to come in 2022.”
City Attorney Mike Feuer praised the judge's decision, noting it was third time in a row a court had rejected a request by police and firefighters to block the city's vaccine mandate.
"For the third time this month, my office has successfully fought back a misguided attempt to halt the vaccine mandate — an effort that would have placed the health of the public and fellow first responders at risk," Feuer said in a statement. "In the strongest terms yet, this court underscored the emergency we continue to confront."
Another judge refused to block the LA Unified School District's student vaccine mandate this month. A judge in San Diego, however, did block the San Diego School District's vaccine mandate for students, which served as a model for LAUSD's law. The San Diego judge said only the Legislature has the power to impose such a rule on students.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the public to get vaccinated and boosted against Covid. Thanks to the new omicron variant, reported Covid cases in the city have tripled in the last week, from 1,000 to 3,000 per day, and the percentage of Covid tests that are positive is spiking as well.
"This already the third biggest peak in our history," Garcetti said. "We will have the biggest number of cases soon. This is a crucial moment for us all."
The number of deaths due to Covid is not spiking, not in LA or in New York, which at roughly 8,000 new infections per day marks the Big Apple's highest number ever. Garcetti said that he did not foresee the need for another lockdown any time soon for LA.
"I don’t see a lockdown," he said. "I think we’re so much better than we were before. This is something we can manage."
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