California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new statewide executive order on Thursday afternoon requiring most healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive their second dose by the end of September.
The directive was issued by Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California’s public health officer. It applies to employees who provide services at most healthcare settings, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, skilled nursing facilities, adult day care centers, and hospice facilities.
“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,” said Aragón in a statement. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”
Health authorities described the order as a “first in the nation requirement.”
NEW: California will now require workers in healthcare settings to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30th.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 5, 2021
The mandate builds on Gov. Newsom’s announcement last week mandating state employees and workers in healthcare or high-risk congregate atmospheres provide evidence of full vaccination or be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. The change comes a day after Los Angeles County ordered 110,000 county workers to show proof of immunization no later than October 1, a directive Newsom described as “the right move.”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a second order on Thursday directing hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities to verify visitors are fully vaccinated or tested negative for coronavirus 72 hours before indoor visits.
More details from the Los Angeles Times:
The new order largely removes the testing option and allows only limited religious or medical exemptions from the vaccine requirement.
Employees who are exempted would have to be tested regularly — twice a week if they work in acute or long-term care facilities and once a week in other healthcare settings.
Unvaccinated employees would also have to wear a surgical mask or respirator, such as an N95, while inside a facility.
Some local health officials are apprehensive about the new requirements — officials such as Gary Herbst, the CEO of Kaweah Health in Tulare County.
“We have cause for great concern, frankly,” Herbst said during an interview with Fresno’s ABC 30 Action News.
The outlet reported that 57% of the healthcare organization’s medical staff of approximately 700 are vaccinated.
“There are many health care workers that do not want to be vaccinated and my greatest fear now is that they will leave,” Herbst continued. “They will either leave the profession altogether, or they will leave the state of California and go to a nearby state.”
According to CDPH, “California is leading the nation in vaccinations, with more than 45 million doses administered and 76.7 percent of the eligible population having at least one dose.” However, the department added the state had experienced a recent rise in infections and hospitalizations among mostly unvaccinated people attributed primarily to the Delta variant.