California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced the Department of Public health issued a new order mandating approximately 320,000 teachers and school staffers across the state show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or be subject to regular testing.
Newsom promoted the move as a first-in-the-nation measure to protect students, encourage immunizations, and reduce coronavirus transmission. The new policy takes effect August 12, and schools must be fully compliant by October 15, the order says.
The governor made the announcement at an elementary school in Oakland.
“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,” said Newsom in a statement. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
The San Francisco Chronicle characterized the mandate as “a reversal for Newsom, who said in recent days that he would not add educators to the list of those required to be vaccinated, which includes health workers and state employees.”
BREAKING: Gov. Newsom announces all teachers and employees in the state must show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing. Makes CA the first state in the nation with such a mandate. @KFIAM640 pic.twitter.com/5TsKZGVlTC
— Corbin Carson (@CorbinCarson) August 11, 2021
The order applies to public and private K-12 schools. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated workers “must be tested at least once weekly,” it says.
“There’s no substitution 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, the state’s top public health officer who signed the directive. “Today’s order will help the state’s continued efforts to increase vaccinations.”
Several labor unions back the new requirement. A press release from Newsom’s office included statements from leaders representing the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union.
The policy change comes the day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called for local education officials to mandate vaccinations for teachers. Some school districts in California had recently unveiled similar vaccination requirements, including San Francisco Unified and Long Beach Unified.
The Los Angeles Times notes, “Newsom had already announced a similar policy for employees of state agencies and an absolute mandate, with limited religious and medical exceptions, for state healthcare workers.”
“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keep schools open,” Newsom said on Wednesday. “And to address the No. 1 anxiety that parents like myself have – I have four young children – and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep their kids healthy.”
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