Calif. city to require vaccines for all city employees

In Santa Ana, City Manager Kristine Ridge announced this week plans to mandate vaccines against COVID-19, except for city employees who request to be exempted for health or religious reasons


Roxana Kopetman
The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Santa Ana plans to mandate city employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, joining at least two other cities in Orange County ordering vaccinations or regular testing.

In requiring its 1,413 employees be vaccinated, Santa Ana follows the lead of Irvine and Laguna Beach, as well as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena and other major California cities that have announced similar plans.

In requiring its 1,413 employees be vaccinated, Santa Ana follows the lead of Irvine and Laguna Beach, as well as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena and other major California cities that have announced similar plans.
In requiring its 1,413 employees be vaccinated, Santa Ana follows the lead of Irvine and Laguna Beach, as well as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena and other major California cities that have announced similar plans. (Photo/Getty)

Meanwhile, private companies are joining the list of federal, state and local agencies requiring the jabs. And on Tuesday, the Culver City Unified School District in L.A. County announced that all eligible students will need to be vaccinated also — believed to be the first such mandate in a California school district.

In Santa Ana, City Manager Kristine Ridge announced this week plans to mandate vaccines against COVID-19, except for city employees who request to be exempted for health or religious reasons.

It's unclear when this new requirement will take place, how the exemptions will work or whether defying the new order will lead to getting fired. Ridge plans to discuss those details with labor groups before the policy change is issued, a city spokesman said Thursday.

On Tuesday, Ridge told the City Council that employees in the city jail already are under a state order to show proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing. City officials are encouraging all employees to be vaccinated, she said.

"Santa Ana has the highest case rate in Orange County, and more than 800 Santa Ana residents have died from this disease," Ridge said in a statement.

"With case numbers rising again, almost entirely among the unvaccinated, it's essential that we as a city lead the way and do everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our employees and in our community."

The Santa Ana Police Officers Association on Thursday joined other local law enforcement unions in opposing such mandates.

"Our legislators and city council make policy and law, not the city manager," POA President Gerry Serrano wrote in an email on behalf of his board of directors, who called Ridge's plan an "unlawful mandate."

"For a city manager to arbitrarily mandate policy taking away our citizens' rights to personal medical choice is unconstitutional and oversteps any authority a single person should have over any citizen or employee. The Association will never accept the violation of anyone's rights to an unlawful forfeiture of their U.S. constitutional rights to choice in medical health," Serrano wrote.

Unions representing Orange County Sheriff's Department and the county's firefighters also oppose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their workers. A statewide order requires all health care workers and those who work in high-risk settings to be fully vaccinated against the virus. That order includes those who work in jails and courthouse detention facilities, affecting about 1,500 of the Sheriff's Department's 3,800 employees. The state order does not give workers a choice to submit to weekly testing instead.

The Service Employees International Union union that represents some 600 Santa Ana employees "strongly encourages" its members to get vaccinated against COVID-19, said Monica Suter, president of SEIU, Local 721 Santa Ana chapter.

"While city management can mandate vaccinations, we look forward to negotiating with the city over the impacts or effects such a mandate might have. As always, we will vigorously defend our members rights at work," Suter wrote in an e-mail. "In an effort to slow the spread of the deadly Delta variant, our union will continue to advocate for a holistic approach offering a robust, frequent testing option for members who have yet to be vaccinated."

As the highly transmittable COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, more cities and states are requiring public employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Many large companies also are requiring the same of their workers, or at least some of their workers, including Google, Facebook, Uber and Disney.

Meanwhile, the Culver City Unified School District may be the first in California to require vaccinations of all its students, as well as its staff. In a Twitter thread Tuesday, the district announced its revised policies for the coming school year, including weekly testing on campus for staff and students, regardless of vaccine status, and mandatory vaccines for all those who are eligible.

This story was updated late Thursday, Aug. 19 to include comments from the SEIU Local 721.

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(c)2021 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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