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California to require all healthcare workers to get vaccinated

As COVID-19’s Delta variant picks up steam across the state, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that in addition to mandating state workers get vaccinated or receive weekly testing, the state will now require all healthcare workers do the former by Sept. 30.

The governor issued an order last week requiring state workers get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, and this new order is meant to build on that. The state has so far resisted reimplementing an indoor mask mandate, though some individual counties like Los Angeles and San Mateo have opted to do so on their own.

“CA will have the strongest state vaccine verification system in the US and will require state employees & health care workers to provide proof of vaccination — or get tested regularly," Newsom tweeted shortly before issuing last week’s order. "We’re experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Everyone that can get vaccinated — should."

The order applies to most healthcare settings across the state, including hospitals, immediate care settings and skilled nursing facilities, among others. A second order instructs healthcare facilities to verify their visitors are either vaccinated or have submitted negative COVID-19 test results within three days of an indoor visitation.

“As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, California Department of Public Health director and state public health officer, in a related statement. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”

Numerous healthcare facilities across the state and country experienced wide-spread infections during the peak of the pandemic, and the order is intended to protect vulnerable patients who may be at high-risk of serious illness or death from the virus. By mandating employees and visitors are vaccinated, or at least recently tested, the facilities can help ensure there isn’t a repeat of these types of outbreaks among those most susceptible to COVID-19, or among staff who have proven increasingly vital during the pandemic.

Those employees will be able to use COVID Supplemental Paid Sick Leave to get vaccinated without losing out on wages. According to a statement released by the California Department of Public Health, “The state encourages facilities to make available resources that can help answer questions about vaccines and provide culturally sensitive advice.”

California has thus far vaccinated 76.7% of its eligible population, the highest proportion in the country, administering 45 million doses in total. Still, new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise thanks to the Delta variant, along with COVID-related ICU admissions, which at this point are overwhelmingly among vaccine holdouts.  

The California Department of Public Health declined to comment on the announcement.

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In this screenshot, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces plans to require state and health care workers to either receive the COVID vaccine or submit to regular testing.