The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today issued a new public health order requiring all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week.
“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at an 11am press conference. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
The new policy for school staff will take effect Thursday, and schools must be in full compliance by Oct. 15. Free testing resources are available to K-12 schools through the CA K-12 schools testing program.
“There’s no substitute for in-person instruction, and California will continue to lead the nation in keeping students and staff safe while ensuring fully open classrooms,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “Today’s order will help the state’s continued efforts to increase vaccinations, similar to the orders encouraging state and health care workers and businesses to get vaccinated.”
Despite California leading the nation in vaccinations, with more than 46 million doses administered and over 77 percent of those eligible having received at least one dose, the state is seeing increasing numbers of people who refused to get the vaccine being admitted to the ICU and dying. This increase is heavily due to the Delta variant, health officials said.
In recent weeks, California has led the nation in implementing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:
- Vaccine verification for state workers. Requires all state workers to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, and encourages local governments and other employers to adopt a similar protocol. Following California’s announcement, some of the largest California businesses and local governments followed suit, as did the federal government.
- Vaccinations for health care workers. Requires workers in health care settings to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose by September 30, 2021.
- Universal masking in K-12 settings. Aligned with guidance from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, California was the first state to implement universal masking in school settings to keep students and staff safe while optimizing fully in-person instruction.
- Medi-Cal vaccination incentives. $350 million in incentive payments to help close the vaccination gap between Medi-Cal beneficiaries and Californians as a whole, significantly stepping up outreach in underserved communities.
- Statewide mask recommendation. In response to the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new CDC guidance calling for masking, the state recommended mask use for indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status.
As of last week, California had administered 335,009 new first doses, a 24% increase compared to the previous two weeks. This is a 62% increase compared to the week of July 5-July 11. Today’s policy will help keep staff and students safe while encouraging additional vaccinations.
Union leaders announced their support of the new rules.
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures,” said California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”
“Worker-led school safety protocols have created the model for safe school reopening, and many school workers have already created similar agreements,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director and SEIU California Executive Board Member Max Arias. “Workers and employers sitting down at the bargaining table is the most effective way to create and implement vaccine policies for the benefit of the entire school community.”
“We want to do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable children and ensure that all children can return to school as safely as possible,” said California State PTA President Carol Green. “We stand by our position that educators are essential workers and support the safe opening of schools to in person instruction.”
“Combining this policy with mitigation measures like masking, hand washing, and good ventilation will ensure we are doing everything possible to keep schools safe for in-person learning. We applaud the Governor’s efforts to provide a framework that works toward this goal,” said California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas.
“While we hope that all employees will ultimately decide to be vaccinated, we look forward to working with the Governor’s administration on the necessary staffing and operations support required to conduct employee COVID testing in our schools,” said Association of California School Administrators President Charlie Hoffman.
“A vaccine requirement for education staff, as announced by Governor Newsom, is a necessary step, one that aligns with the science, and public health recommendations to create the safest environment possible as we reopen our campuses,” said California County Superintendents Educational Services Association President and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe.
“CCSA supports the orders by the California Department of Public Health to mitigate transmission and ensure a safe return to in-person learning,” said California Charter Schools Association President and CEO Myrna Castrejón. “We urge all educators and school staff to get vaccinated to keep yourselves and students safe.”
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free,” health officials said.. Unvaccinated Californians age 12 and up can go to myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255 to schedule an appointment or go to myturn.ca.gov/clinic to find a walk-in clinic in their county.