The sheriff for Los Angeles County made it clear that he would not fire employees if they declined to get vaccinated against COVID, citing concerns about first responder manpower. But he expressed his intentions to not enforce vaccine mandates for businesses.
Los Angeles requires venues, bars, restaurants, and other indoor public spaces to require visitors to submit proof of vaccination or be denied entry. Sheriff Villanueva said that enforcement would be up to each business to decide.
"That's going to be up to each business to enforce it, and however they want to do that's great," responds Villanueva.
"We'll respond to a call if there's a business dispute, and we'll obviously assist any business that’s trying to enforce a mandate. But we're not going to become the vaccine police, not at all," he said.
Villanueva said his department generally understands the needs they're trying to balance. The sheriff publicly expressed these sentiments last week as well.
Villanueva was asked as to why he would decline to enforce laws, noting that he is not a legislator, but holds a position with law enforcement.
"Some people are trying to claim somehow I'm an anti-vaxxer, this is nonsense," Villanueva said. "I'm fully vaccinated, my entire family is. I support everyone on the department to get vaccinated.
"However, that is a medical decision that's left to each employee to do. We're providing a reasonable accommodation for those that don't want to be vaccinated, they have to submit to weekly testing, and be clear and free, and they can go to work," he said.
"But what the board is trying to do is gonna cost me five, ten percent or more of my employees to just walk away," Villanueva lamented. "Anybody who is sitting around roughly twenty years or more on the department, can leave. They're not going to suffer financially, and they're just going to say 'I'm done. I'm out of here.'"
Villanueva said that officials are "moving the goalposts" from 2020. He says first it was ICUs and ventilators, but now with vaccination it became clamping down on hospitalizations in general.
Marla Tellez asked about pushback from deputies. Villanueva said somewhere between fifty-five to sixty percent of his staff were vaccinated, versus seventy percent for Los Angeles overall.
"It is so politicized, the decision. Law enforcement and fire is in the same boat. They tend to be more conservative, they're going to be more buying into the whole politicization narrative, to not get vaccination. So it's going to be a disproportionate effect on first responders. I recognize that, and that's why I'm making it voluntary, however, you have to test if you don't vaccinate," the sheriff explained.