California state employees, as well as health care workers throughout the state, will soon be required to show proof COVID-19 vaccinations or submit to weekly testing, officials announced Monday.
The new policy is scheduled to take effect in August and according to the Los Angeles Times, takes away the previous policy where 246,382 state workers did not have to verify their status. Estimates were unavailable on the size of the health care workforce in California.
“As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
The California Department of Public Health reported that more than 21 million Californians (62.1%) are fully vaccinated and 3.1 million residents (9.3%) are partially vaccinated.
Almost 75% of Californians who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have received at least one dose, but new positive cases are on the rise.
According to state health officials, California’s statewide COVID case rate more than quadrupled since May when 1.8 new cases per 100,000 residents a day were reported. Currently, at least 9.5 new cases per 100,000 residents are being reported daily.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated. According to state officials, new case rates among the unvaccinated are 600% higher than vaccinated residents.
“We must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals,” Ghaly said in a statement. “The Delta variant is up to 60 percent more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time.”
The vaccination verification policy for state workers will begin on Aug. 2, with testing phased in over the following weeks. The new policy for health care workers and congregate facilities will being on Aug. 9 Health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to come into full compliance.
Newsom allowed California to reopen June 15. He has resisted calls to issue mandates on mask-wearing or social distancing, though some counties — including Los Angeles County — have re-instituted their own mandates.
More than 50 organizations of medical professionals on Monday called for stronger measures. The groups, which represents millions health care workers across the nation, called for all health care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told KNX In Depth on Friday that she was not inclined to implement a vaccine mandate until after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves at least one vaccine.
“We have a long history in this country of mandating vaccines, particularly for children and at other times during pandemics or epidemics where we’ve had a lot of serious disease that’s been circulating,” she said. “I agree that requiring vaccinations among some people is a place that we are all going to end up being once the FDA gives full approval.”