State public health officials issued a vaccination mandate Thursday for health care workers across the state, requiring them to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose by the end of September.
The mandate will apply to all workers in health care settings like hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. In its Aug. 5 order, the California Department of Public Health also mandated that people visiting a health care setting must confirm their vaccination status or have tested “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,” state Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragon said in a statement. “Today's action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected.”
The new mandate comes just over a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all state employees and health care workers to show proof they are fully vaccinated or be subject to COVID-19 testing twice weekly for acute health care and long-term care facilities and once weekly for other health care settings.
The testing requirement will still be in place for health care workers who have a documented exemption for medical or religious reasons. The state public health order does not leave room as Newsom's order did for workers who decline to get vaccinated because of personal preference.
Public health officials argued the stricter vaccine mandate is necessary going forward as a higher proportion of COVID-19 infections continue to be confirmed in unvaccinated people.
In a statement, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers threw its support behind the vaccination mandate, but also urged state officials to consider granting hazard pay bonuses to health care workers as they face another surge in cases and hospitalizations.
“Given our unique and indispensable role and with hospitalizations dramatically rising, including for young children, we understand why frontline healthcare workers are being required to rise again to the occasion and be the first line of defense in this unprecedented fight,” the SEIU-UHW said in its statement.