Newsom to require vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for state workers, nurses

Hundreds of thousands of California state workers and health care workers will soon be required to either show proof they’re vaccinated against COVID-19 or get recurring tests for the virus. 

Amid an uptick in new infections and stagnant new vaccinations, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that all state employees and workers in the health care industry must either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once a week as a condition of employment. 

“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” Newsom said in a news release. 

Workers in what the governor’s office referred to as “high-risk congregate settings like adult and senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails” would also fall under the same requirement. 

The new policy for state workers takes effect Aug. 2, with testing phased in over the next few weeks. The policy for health care workers and others takes effect Aug. 9. 

The state’s nurses, mostly represented by the California Association of Health Facilities, have seen weekly COVID-19 testing since June 1, 2020.

“The governor’s new rule means unvaccinated staff will have to wear N95 masks throughout the facility,” said spokeswoman Deborah Pacyna. “At present, they are only required in yellow and red COVID zones of nursing facilities. We have adequate supplies to meet this new directive.”

At present, 79% of all California nursing home workers are fully vaccinated, Pacyna said. Two percent are partially vaccinated, marking the highest rate in the U.S. behind Hawaii and Guam.

The change comes weeks before Californians receive their ballots for Newsom’s Sept. 12 recall election. 

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents the guards that must adhere to the new rules, wasn’t immediately available for comment. 

California health officials are blaming the new COVID-19 variant for the increase in new infections in recent weeks. Still, the state’s case rate remains well below its pandemic highs, at 9.5 cases for every 100,000 residents with fewer deaths. 

“The Delta variant is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time.”  

Newsom said in a news conference that he would focus on getting more people vaccinated for the virus instead of entertaining new business and individual restrictions. 

Los Angeles County announced last week that they would be reimposing face covering mandates.

This article was originally posted on Newsom to require vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for state workers, nurses

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