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Los Angeles County sheriff won't enforce vaccine mandate

“I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my workforce," Alex Villanueva said.
Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles last year.Jae C. Hong / AP file

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff says he will not enforce the county’s vaccine mandate in his agency.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who oversees the largest sheriff’s department in the country with roughly 18,000 employees, said Thursday in a Facebook Live event that he does not plan to carry out the mandate, which ordered Los Angeles County employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

The mandate was issued by executive order in August and allows only for religious and medical exemptions. Villanueva said his employees are willing to be terminated rather than get vaccinated.

“I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5, 10% of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate,” the sheriff said.

More than 26,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, which is the nation’s most populous county.

Of the county’s roughly 10 million residents, 78 percent have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and 69 percent are fully vaccinated, according to public health officials.

Health officials said the county has reported 14 deaths a day, on average, even though deaths and hospitalization figures have plunged by some 50 percent since late August.

Villanueva’s announcement came a day after the city of Los Angeles approved one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that requires the shots for everyone entering bars, restaurants, nail salons, gyms or even a Lakers game.