The California Department of Human Resources (Cal HR) reported on Monday that only 62% of all state employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a mandate having been in place in the state since late July.
While the Cal HR data does not include all state departments and organizations, it does cover the vast majority with 213,000 of the 238,000 state employees of California being reported. The data, which was compiled on October 7th, also shows that, despite a mandate being put into place, it still falls well below the current statewide vaccination percentage of 73% for citizens with at least one dose.
On July 26th, Governor Gavin Newsom and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced the first statewide state employee mandate of either vaccination or regular testing, with a strong emphasis on vaccination. However, most departments proved to be slow in enforcement. Attempts to quicken the pace in some departments, such as a September U.S. District Court ruling to have all state prison guards be vaccinated, were quickly stopped by higher court judges due to employee shortage fears.
Low percentages were previously hinted at by Dr. Ghaly last month in a letter where he explained to state employees that vaccines were safe and that there were no reasons not to have them.
“We haven’t done enough,” said Ghaly last month. “Despite our work to avoid it, we have allowed an invaluable, life-saving health intervention to become more complicated, more polarizing, more confusing than anything seen before in modern medicine. For whatever reason that has held you out from getting vaccinated, I implore you to reconsider.”
However, state employees largely still refuse to do so. The new Cal HR data that many large entities, such as the Employee Development Department (EDD), the Department of Healthcare Services, and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) at extremely low vaccination percentages, with 26%, 54%, and 30% respectively.
Continued refusal from many state employees
While the refusal has been largely due to state employees unable to receive the vaccines including having had constant emergencies come up leading to delays, skepticism over Newsom’s July order, supply shortages, employees staying at home rather than having to go into an office, employee union rejection due to the fast pace of the mandates and rules, as well as other more personal or legal issues such as court injunctions, Cal HR has been adamant that testing and vaccinations are still progressing at a steady pace.
“Considering the novelty and complexity of this statewide program, we think the testing effort is progressing quite well and we expect it to continue expanding in the coming weeks until all departments are in compliance,” said Cal HR in a statement on Monday. They also added that they have been collecting vaccination data to help set up programs for all 166 California departments and agencies to help spur more vaccinations and better ways to test employees returning to work.
Even with the push, many state workers have continued to refuse the vaccination and have said that California has no right to impose this on them months later.
“The state has been saying to vaccinate for months now,” said a Cal Fire employee to the Globe on Tuesday. “But when we were out there putting out wildfires or coordinating with emergency officials, or what have you, all of a sudden that took a back seat because people needed to be saved and no one cared about vaccinations. And now, despite having been like this for months, it’s still not a priority. We’re saving lives and homes and we don’t need this sort of thing from the state looming over us.”
“You’re not going to convince the people that see and hear the worst of humanity or natural resources, or people in dire straits that vaccinations are key to keep people safe. That’s what the state is not getting. Look at that data. Most of the departments with low rates have been under severe pressure or staff shortages or have had to listen to families tell them of the worst happening to them for almost two years now since the pandemic came up. You just can’t scare us into taking it. You need to give a sound logical reason tailored to what we have gone through and how it will help us in our day to help others. And they haven’t done that. Not in the least.”
Higher state employee vaccination rates are expected by the end of the year as more return to offices, although the number is expected to stay below the statewide vaccination percentage.
- Bill To Punish Social Media Companies For Addictive Features For Minor Users Passes Assembly - May 24, 2022
- Berkeley Unified School District Bring Back Mask Mandate For Rest of Year - May 23, 2022
- DNC member, California Democratic Party Leader Melahat Rafiei Resigns Over Bribery Allegations - May 23, 2022