State employees and health care workers in California will be required to show proof of vaccination at work or be forced to get tested for COVID-19 regularly to keep their jobs under a new plan introduced by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
On Monday, Newsom announced what he calls a "first-in-the-nation standard" for mandatory vaccines or coronavirus testing to incentivize unvaccinated employees to take their COVID shots, a policy he hopes local communities and private sector businesses will adopt.
"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," the governor said in a press statement. "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. Vaccines are safe – they protect our family, those who truly can't get vaccinated, our children and our economy. Vaccines are the way we end this pandemic."
Hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes, homeless shelters, jails, and other health care settings will be required to verify that their employees are fully vaccinated or being tested regularly. Those who decline to get vaccinated will be required to wear face masks and other appropriate PPE.
The new policy will take effect for state workers on Aug. 2 and will be phased in for health care settings afterward. Health care workers and congregate facilities will need to require vaccination or regular testing by Aug. 9 and health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to become compliant with the new policy.
The governor's office said the requirements are necessary because of rising COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant, which is more contagious than other variants of the virus. Last week, California's statewide case rate more than quadrupled from a low in May of 1.9 cases per 100,000 per day to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000. After reaching a low of under 900 hospitalizations in June, COVID-19 hospitalizations are back up to nearly 3,000.
"The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, with 600 percent higher case rates among the unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated," the governor's office stated.
"California has administered more vaccines than any other state, with 75 percent of those eligible having gotten at least one dose, and we were weeks ahead of meeting President Biden's 70 percent goal. But we must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals," state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surge because of the Delta variant, public health officials have become more and more insistent that private businesses and governments adopt vaccine mandates to force the remaining unvaccinated population to get their shots.
The vast majority of Americans, however, are opposed to forcing people to get vaccinated against their will.