LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — First responders in the City of Los Angeles have been hit hard by this latest surge of COVID-19 infections, but Mayor Eric Garcetti says they have been preparing for the possibility that so many police officers and firefighters might be waylaid all at the same time.
Both the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the LAPD are grappling with hundreds of their ranks out due to a COVID infection. But Garcetti says he has approved overtime so that both agencies can continue to respond quickly to emergencies.
Chief Ralph Terrazas says 7% of his staff – nearly 300 out of its force of 3,800 employees – have been infected and are not working. That's the highest number of positive cases in the department since the start of the pandemic.
"When you call for help from the LAFD, we will respond," Terrazas said. "However, our response time has been impacted by our lack of staffing."
Some engines and ambulances have had to be taken out of service at some points, but every station has been kept open," he said.
The LAPD is also struggling with its own outbreak -- a total of 505 officers from the force of 9,500 sworn officers is off duty due to testing positive. One employee is hospitalized and in "extremely grave" condition, Chief Michel Moore said.
"We have seen a five-fold increase in COVID positive this last week," he said.
The silver lining to this latest surge, however, is that the latest wave of infections blamed on the Omicron variant are believed to be less severe and this current surge is temporary.
A number of firefighters and police officers have also been placed on unpaid leave due to refusing to get vaccinated in compliance with the city's vaccine mandate. However, those employees are not part of the latest staff shortages, Garcetti said.
"Five out of six members of each of those departments are now fully vaccinated," he said.
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