COVID mandates causing first responder shortages

Los Angeles City and County residents need help.  Crime rates are rising.  Response times for fire calls are lengthening.  Response times for ambulance calls are also.  The people of the city and county are having their lives placed at risk, in large part, because of the politicians they elected to help them.

In this crisis, the city and county need first responders: men and women willing to place their lives at risk to help their fellow citizens.

In Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors recently authorized the county administrator to fire 4,000 L.A. County sheriff's deputies for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  If that happens, it will cut the sheriff's department by about 22 percent.

How does that make sense?

"This is nothing but a power grab by the board.  And it's shameful, and it's going to be harmful to public safety," said Los Angeles County sheriff Alex Villanueva.

According to John Knox, an L.A. firefighter and paramedic, the fire service in the city typically has around 375 vacancies a day — people who are sick or on vacation.  Since COVID hit, that number has nearly doubled to about 700 vacancies a day, roughly 20 percent of the fire service.

"So, depending on the type of call, there is a possibility you would not get any service," Knox said in an interview.

These shortages have to be filled for departments to operate.  As a result, firefighters have to work forced overtime.  It is burning them out, and they are retiring, intensifying the shortage.  This also means that the COVID mandates cost taxpayers as they foot the overtime bill.

It boils down to the politicians who either reacted poorly when COVID hit due to getting bad information about the disease or saw the pandemic as an opportunity to become more powerful.

People who don't want to be vaccinated aren't trying to be obstinate.  Instead, they have legitimate concerns about the efficacy and side-effect of such a hurriedly developed vaccine.  Many of these concerns have been validated as the CDC has released thousands of documents proving those conclusions.

However, the city and county passed mandates for first responders that they needed to get vaccinated or they would be fired.  The mandate went into effect late last year, and now the residents are finding themselves less safe as more and more first responders are fired because they wouldn't give in to what they consider to be tyranny.

These are the same politicians who would jump up and claim that government has no right to tell a woman what to do to her body if she wants an abortion, but if that same woman didn't want to be vaccinated, she must comply or lose her job.

Knox asserts that in enforcing the mandates, the government has broken the law.  Federal and state law outlines the steps that need to be taken to terminate first responders, and the local governments have not followed those steps in a rush to get rid of unvaccinated employees.

Only in government would it make sense to break the law so that residents will be safe by not being exposed to unvaccinated workers, only to make them more unsafe by significantly reducing the number of police, firefighters, and EMTs available to provide emergency help.

And things won't get better any time soon.  In fact, they will probably get worse.

Currently, vaccinated workers will eventually be considered unvaccinated.  This is because of the push to say you aren't fully vaccinated unless you have a booster shot.  If this becomes policy, thousands more employees will have to either "get vaccinated" (again) or lose their jobs.

Knox says in the fire service that this could be another 1,000 firefighters, and many of them have had a change of heart about vaccinations.  So a large number of that 1,000 won't get a booster.  This will only increase the shortage of first responders.

The city and county have made efforts to hire recruits, but it doesn't seem to reduce the shortages, partly because no unvaccinated person will be hired.  Due to this, they have cut firefighter training down from four months to 10 weeks to get the recruits on the street faster.  So new firefighters aren't as well trained, which could be dangerous for them and the people they serve.

Los Angeles politicians need to wake up and realize that unless they make better decisions, things will only get worse.  They need to drop the mandates.  They can keep the PPE requirements and protocols the departments are using.  Many of them are good to use even in non-pandemic times.  They need to stop the firings and rehire those first responders they fired.  They should also offer them back pay; that will be cheaper in the long run, since lawsuits against the city are just beginning to be filed, with no end in sight for lawsuits yet to come.

Michael Letts is the CEO and Founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs. 

Image: Adoramassey via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).

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