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$5 Per Hour Hazard Pay For Grocery Workers Advanced By L.A. City Council

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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a proposed emergency ordinance that would require large grocery and pharmacy retailers to offer employees an additional $5 per hour in hazard pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote requested the city attorney to prepare the ordinance and the chief legislative analyst to report on potential economic impacts of the ordinance and potential legal challenges.

Long Beach recently enacted an emergency ordinance for $4 per hour in hazard pay, but it was challenged in court by the California Grocers Association. A hearing is scheduled on Feb. 19.

The Los Angeles ordinance would require grocery and pharmacy retailers with 300 or more employees nationally and 10 or more employees on site to add the $5 hazard pay to all hourly, non-managerial employees’ wages for 120 days.

“The health threat that these grocery workers face cannot be overstated — recent studies before the current surge report grocery workers to be five times more likely to test positive,” stated the original motion, which was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmen Paul Koretz, Mitch O’Farrell and Curren Price on Dec. 15.

“These workers must be justly compensated for the clear and present dangers of doing their jobs during the pandemic by requiring their employers to provide hazard pay.”

Councilman Joe Buscaino amended the motion Tuesday to have the chief legislative analyst report on the potential impacts to disadvantaged communities of color, particularly in South Los Angeles, which has been “identified as a food desert,” Buscaino said.

Before Tuesday’s vote, several people, including Stuart Waldman, the president of the Valley Industry Commerce Association, called in during the meeting’s public comment time to urge council members to conduct a full economic analysis before voting to have the city attorney prepare the ordinance.

Price and Councilwoman Nithya Raman said an economic analysis would take a long time, and workers need hazard pay now.

“Given how severe the pandemic is right now, given the risks that grocery workers are taking, we, in the (Economic Development and Jobs Committee) discussed the need to move this ordinance along parallel to the report, not waiting for the report first and then instituting the ordinance later,” Raman said.

Waldman also told the council members that they should be focused on getting grocery workers vaccinated instead of giving them hazard pay.

“We don’t fully understand why grocery workers aren’t getting vaccinated right away. These are people who are seeing people very single day and they should be at the front of the line,” he said. “Hazard pay isn’t going to help somebody who gets sick.”

Ricci Sergienko of the People’s City Council said he supported vaccines for grocery workers on top of hazard pay. Regarding the people who would receive the hazard pay under this ordinance, Sergienko said: “They are essential workers and they are frontline workers, they deserve to be bumped up in the vaccination line but they also deserve hazard pay.”

Price said he didn’t believe the argument some are making that the ordinance would cause grocery stores to close.

“Stores are making record profits at this time, many up 30% or more in sales, so the argument that this is going to cause the stores to close down, I think is unlikely,” Price said.

The Kroger Co. announced Monday that it will be shuttering two of its stores in Long Beach — a Ralphs location and a Food4Less store — in response to that city’s hazard pay ordinance.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union blasted Kroger’s decision as an attack on workers.

“After everything they’ve been through and all the sacrifices and the service our members have provided Long Beach during the pandemic, Kroger responds with this chilling message to workers,” Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, said in a statement. “Kroger closing these stores is a clear attempt to intimidate and discourage workers from standing up and using their voice to create better working conditions and wages.”

Koretz called out Kroger on Tuesday for announcing the planned store closures.

“They absolutely can afford this increase, they absolutely should be paying this increase, and if they shut down stores, it’s just out of spite, it’s not because they will struggle to survive because they pay their employees a well-deserved $5 extra as hazard pay,” he said.

Councilman John Lee expressed concern that the ordinance would include grocery retailers that he believes are medium-sized. He still voted to have the city attorney prepare it.

“I’m worried about the communities that are throughout Los Angeles that are going to be affected by this ordinance passing and stores having to endure a 33% increase in overhead costs and they already go on a razor thin margin,” Lee said.

“I just ask that when we have that (economic analysis) that it pay special close attention and we all have focus on the smaller stores, but also on those mid-range stores as well,” he said.
Buscaino said Tuesday that hazard pay shouldn’t be limited to grocery and pharmacy workers.
“I think it’s also critically important to recognize the other essential low paid frontline workers, like the janitors cleaning our hospitals, truck drivers, those in the goods movement sectors, even our airport workers or factory workers that are coming into work day in and day out,” he said.

He said he and Council President Nury Martinez are planning to introduce a motion to “move on that effort.”

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Public Health Prepares For Increased Demand As Residents Over 16 Become Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine

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Public health officials are preparing for a surge in demand for a COVID-19 vaccine as all residents over the age of 16 become eligible on Thursday, as supply decreases due to the pause of Johnson & Johnson.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said Wednesday the newly eligible group includes nearly 5 million residents, with about 1.5 million already receiving at least one dose of a vaccine. 

All residents over 16 can make an appointment starting Wednesday on the state’s MyTurn website, following the expansion by the City of L.A. earlier this week. 

The county paused the use of the J&J vaccine on Tuesday out of an abundance of caution after the recommendation from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Ferrer said the blood clotting reaction is “one in a million,” but urged those who have experienced any unusual symptoms to contact Public Health. 

More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

The pause is in effect until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days, according to the department. 

“We are grateful to the researchers and scientists working to ensure that all medications or vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, meet the highest safety standards,” Ferrer said.

Public health officials are prioritizing new appointments for those who were scheduled to receive a J&J vaccine, according to Ferrer.  

The county received an allocation of about 323,470 doses of the vaccines this week, an estimated 80,000 doses less than the week prior. About 19,000 doses of the allocation are the J&J vaccine, according to Public Health. 

As of April 14, over 3.4 million doses have been administered in L.A. County, including over 1.9 million second doses, according to the public health director.

On Wednesday, 57 new deaths and 411 additional cases were reported in Los Angeles County. A total of 23,553 deaths and 1,226,964 cases have been confirmed across the county since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the department. 

For more information on vaccination efforts in L.A. County and to make an appointment, visit here

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Los Angeles County Remains In ‘Orange’ Tier As COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Decline

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Los Angeles County is remaining in the “orange” tier of reopening as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline. 

The L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed 23 new deaths and 448 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. To date, 1,226,596 positive cases of COVID-19 and a total of 23,498 deaths have been confirmed across all areas of L.A. County.

There are 471 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 25% of these people are in the ICU. Testing results are available for more than 6,223,000 individuals with 18% of people testing positive.

L.A. County is in the orange tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that allows for permitted activities in several key sectors with safety measures in place. In order to move to the less restrictive yellow tier, the County’s case rate must be less than 2 new cases per 100,000 people and test positivity must be less than 2%.

Tuesday, the State released updated numbers; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate slightly increased from 3.1 new cases per 100,000 people to 3.2 new cases per 100,000. The test positivity rate remained at 1.5% and in areas with the fewest health affirming resources, L.A. County’s test positivity rate remained at 1.9%.

The State plans to fully reopen with safety measures on June 15 if there is enough vaccine supply for Californians 16 years and older to be vaccinated and hospitalization rates remain stable and low, especially among fully vaccinated Californians.

“We have moderate transmission in L.A. County, so it remains necessary to continue taking steps to prevent increases in cases to keep our recovery from stalling,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “One important tool for reducing transmission are vaccines. And while we all need to follow the FDA and CDC recommendation to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as they conduct their review, we encourage residents to keep their appointments to get vaccinated with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. We are grateful to the researchers and scientists working to ensure that all medications or vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, meet the highest safety standards.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint recommendation on Tuesday to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed unusual types of blood clots 6 to 13 days after receiving the vaccine. 

Out of an abundance of caution, Los Angeles County is following the recommendation of the FDA and CDC to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days, public health officials said.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare with nearly 7,000,000 people receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States to date. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority and we are working with healthcare providers across the county to ensure they are using screening tools and reporting adverse events, according to the department. 

People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last three weeks should report severe headaches, abdominal or leg pain, and shortness of breath to their medical provider or seek medical care. People who don’t have a medical provider can call 2-1-1 to connect with a healthcare provider.

Public Health notes the pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not have a major impact on this week’s vaccine appointments for the County. Out of the 323,470 total doses allocated to the County this week, only 19,600 were Johnson & Johnson doses. Vaccine providers in Los Angeles County will contact patients that were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about rescheduling or providing a new appointment for Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

Changes will be made to the MyTurn website starting tomorrow to allow residents 16 and older to begin to schedule vaccination appointments for Thursday and later. Youth 16 and 17 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine and need to sign up at a site that offers this vaccine, according to the department. 

For information about how to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, visit here.

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L.A. County, City To Pause Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Advisory

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Both the County and City of Los Angeles are pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after an advisory from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA released a joint statement reporting a “rare and severe type of blood clot” in six individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

The City of L.A. is set to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, until further notice, at all sites throughout the City, said Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell. 

Any previous appointments made Tuesday are expected to be honored with another vaccine, according to Gorell.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a statement later Tuesday morning saying the county is also pausing the J&J vaccine.

 This pause will last until the FDA and CDC complete their review, which is expected to take several days. Vaccine providers in Los Angeles County will contact patients about rescheduling or providing a new appointment for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to Public Health.

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen ) vaccine have been administered in the U.S. The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). 

All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination, according to the statement. 

“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered,” the statement said. “Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.”

CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. 

Until that process is complete, the agencies are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. 

“This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” the statement said.

Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare, according to the agencies. 

“COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously,” the statement said. “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”

Note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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