Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody today issued a health order requiring up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination (both fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 if eligible for a booster) for workers in certain higher-risk settings in light of the rapid surge in cases due to the Omicron variant.
“This order is made in light of the emergence in Santa Clara County of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the imminent threat that it poses to the health of vulnerable residents and the capacity of the healthcare system,” Cody said in her order.
Ensuring that all individuals working in higher-risk settings are both vaccinated and boosted when eligible is critical given the emergence of the Omicron variant, the risk that health systems will be overwhelmed, and other ongoing risks associated with COVID-19.
Individuals working in these settings “can expose highly vulnerable individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness and death, must be protected from COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible to ensure adequate staffing in these critical settings and in the case of jails, shelters, and skilled nursing facilities, can cause large outbreaks if infected.”
All workers in higher-risk settings must get booster shots no later than Jan. 24. If they are not in compliance. They may not continue to work after Feb.1.
The Omicron variant is “significantly more transmissible than prior variants of the virus,” she said in the order.
“Individuals who have had only their initial vaccine series are more susceptible to infection from the Omicron variant than those who have received a booster in addition to their initial series.”
“Our community and others may soon be facing a significant surge in hospitalizations as well as an increase in large outbreaks in congregate settings as a result of the Omicron variant.
The Department of Public Health reported that initial evidence also shows that individuals who have received a booster shot increase their immunity to a level that confers more protection from all circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the Omicron variant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health now recommend that all eligible persons receive a booster shot because immunity wanes several months after completion of the initial vaccine series.
“Vaccination remains a critical component in preventing COVID-19 and its associated harms,” the county said.
Individuals who have not received a booster shot are more likely to become infected and spread infection to others, and more likely to become seriously ill, require hospitalization, and die,” Cody said in her order.
In considering options to stem the anticipated rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission and associated demands on our healthcare delivery system, ensuring that individuals who work in higher-risk settings are all vaccinated and boosted when eligible is critically important.
The order announced today requires that all individuals who work in higher-risk settings must be “fully vaccinated” and also obtain boosters when they become eligible. State health orders already require that many of these individuals be vaccinated (and ultimately boosted by Feb. 1.
However, those state orders do not cover all individuals working in higher-risk settings and roles, such as paramedics and jail staff. The state orders also allow persons who obtain an exemption from vaccination from their employer to continue working in higher-risk settings where they are at high risk of becoming infected and exposing others, rather than requiring that individuals with exemptions be reassigned to lower-risk settings and roles.
The new county moves up the timeline for personnel to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The order applies to any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entity, whether a corporate entity, organization, partnership, or sole proprietorship, and regardless of the nature of the service, the function it performs, or its corporate or entity structure.
The “high-risk settings” in the new county order are those portions of the following facilities “where there is shared air space or proximity to patients, clients, or vulnerable populations,” including skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, adult day care facilities, and memory care facilities; healthcare delivery facilities (such as hospitals, clinics, medical offices, dialysis centers, etc.) where patient care is provided, as well as medical first responders; jails and other correctional facilities; and shelters.
Cody also urged all businesses and governmental entities and individuals to follow these recommendations:
All eligible persons are strongly urged to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
- Unless everyone is wearing face masks at all times for the duration of the gathering, individuals should not gather indoors in groups of more than 10 people from outside their household.
- Businesses and governmental entities should immediately implement mandatory vaccination requirements for all personnel that require Up-to-Date vaccination as quickly as possible, subject only to the limited exemptions required by law.
- Businesses and governmental entities should move operations and activities outdoors where possible, where there is significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission. Where this is not possible, ventilation should be maximized.
- Businesses and governmental entities should prohibit all personnel who are not up-to-date with their vaccination from engaging in any work-related travel to places with rates of COVID-19 higher than the Bay Area region or where community vaccination rates are below the average in the Bay Area region.
- Businesses and governmental entities should require all personnel not up-to-date with their vaccination to obtain frequent testing for COVID-19 consistent with current local, state, and federal recommendations. Any person, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who has any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should get tested immediately.
- Businesses that serve the public, especially those with activities that require patrons to remove their face mask to engage in the business (e.g., restaurants and bars), should require their patrons to be up-to-date on their vaccination and show proof of vaccination prior to entry.