ADAM BEAM, Associated Press
California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million healthcare and long-term care workers to be fully vaccinated by September 30 as the country’s most populous state loses ground in battling new infections with a more dangerous variant of coronavirus.
The order, issued Thursday by the California Department of Health, differs from what Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said last month when he announced that health care workers would have the choice of either getting vaccinated or having weekly tests to undergo.
Well, the order leaves no choice for healthcare workers. It states that everyone must be fully vaccinated by the end of September, except for those who refuse the vaccine on religious grounds or workers who cannot be vaccinated for a qualified medical reason, backed up by a note signed by a licensed doctor will.
The change comes as California has the fastest surge in new virus cases since the pandemic began, averaging 18.3 new cases per 100,000 people per day. Most of the state’s new infections are caused by the Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus that the state says can “cause more serious illness”.
“The new positive cases are increasing in the number of healthcare workers, although vaccinations were a priority for this group when vaccines first became available,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California Public Health Officer. “The most recent health outbreaks have often been attributed to unvaccinated workers.”
Gabe Montoya, an emergency physician at Kaiser Downey Medical Center and a member of the Executive Committee of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, said, “Vaccines are an essential tool in combating this virus,” adding that “workers must have a voice.” at the negotiating table when new conditions are placed on our work. “
“We have put our lives on the line every day for the past year and a half – at great cost to us and our families,” said Montoya.
The order represents a new hard line in the effort of public health leaders to convince those who are hesitant to receive the vaccine. Several states are focusing on health workers because they are patients at risk.
But other states with similar requirements have created exemptions, like Oregon, where health care workers can get regular COVID-19 tests instead. In Maryland, the vaccination mandate only applies to certain state employees, such as those who work in state health care facilities.
In California, vaccine mandates are dangerous for Newsom, who faces a recall election next month, partly fueled by anger over its handling of the pandemic. Newsom upset many parents by continuing to require indoor masks in all public schools, but it has not required that all teachers and staff be vaccinated.
Some California local governments go beyond the new rule. In Los Angeles County, around 110,000 government employees will have to be vaccinated by October 1 under a new order from Board Chairwoman Hilda L. Solis.
She found that about 4 million of the county’s roughly 10 million residents remain unvaccinated. The Los Angeles order does not provide for penalties for employees who refuse to be vaccinated.
The city of San Jose in California’s Silicon Valley also requires an estimated 8,000 workers to be vaccinated or to have negative COVID-19 tests weekly. It may eventually require vaccinations, with exceptions for medical or religious reasons.
Meanwhile, a letter to the approximately 5,000 employees of the Los Angeles County Superior Court – the largest trial court system in the country – ordered them to be fully vaccinated or fired. The letter states that workers must provide proof of vaccination no later than 45 days after the US Food and Drug Administration has final approval for any of the vaccines available in the US, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Both mandates provide for exceptions for people for medical or religious reasons.
California’s new vaccination mandate is broad and covers workers in most healthcare facilities, including hospitals, skilled nursing homes, mental hospitals, adult day care centers, dialysis centers, hospice facilities and clinics, and doctor’s offices.
Carmela Coyle, President and CEO of the California Hospital Association, described the vaccine mandate as “an important step in the long battle we are facing against COVID-19 and the numerous variants that have surfaced.”
“We are once again on a dangerous precipice that requires both our strength and goodwill to protect our loved ones and neighbors,” said Coyle. “As with every step of this pandemic, California health workers are called upon to take the lead in the battle between vaccine and variant.”
In a separate order, the state required hospitals, specialist nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities that all visitors were either vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19 at least three days before an indoor visit. The state said it would release its updated long-term care facility guidelines “in the near future.”