Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that all school teachers and members of school staff must either be vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19, becoming the first state to instill mandatory vaccinations on teachers and school staff in the country.
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According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) order, all K-12 public and private schools will be covered by this order. Home schools, as well as pre-K and higher education schools, will not be covered, although some, such as the UC and CSU university systems, already have a vaccine order. One of five forms of vaccination proof will be accepted, with the most common expected be by digital means or through the CDC vaccination card.
If school workers opt for testing, it will take place at least once a week, with no exceptions being made, including for those who had tested positive before.
No punishments will be given if teachers or staff don’t comply with the order, although it is likely that they would not be allowed inside, or with other punishments, such as leaves-of absences or even firings, depending on the school.
Newsom and the CDPH made the decision following a growing number of delta variant COVID-19 cases occurring in California and claiming it is primarily affecting people who are unvaccinated.
“California is currently experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 22.7 new cases per 100,000 people per day, with case rates increasing tenfold since early June,” notes the CDPH order. “The Delta variant, which is two times more contagious than the original virus, is currently the most common variant causing new infections in California.
“Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air. Most current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated adults. Almost all K-6th graders are unvaccinated and will not be eligible for vaccines at the outset of the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, although some 7-12th grade students will be fully vaccinated by the start of the school year, many will not. As of August 10, 2021, less than 41% of Californians 12 to 17 years old were fully vaccinated.
“For these reasons, in order to prevent the further spread of COVID19 in K-12 schools, the following temporary and limited public health measures are necessary at this time.”
Speaking from an elementary school in Oakland on Wednesday, Newsom echoed the CDPH’s words and even added in his own reasoning, as a father, as well as Governor.
“We’re now following up today to align our school strategy to the state strategy, becoming the first state in the country to require that all of our staff, not just teachers, credentialed staff, parent educators, custodial staff, the bus drivers, folks that are critical to supporting the entire school ecosystem, also submit a verification of vaccination and/or submit to weekly testing,” added Newsom at the press conference. “We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number-one anxiety that parents like myself have for young children, and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe, to keep our kids healthy.”
Recall candidates challenge new vaccination mandate
While support among health and education experts remained high, with teachers reporting an 81% vaccination rate across the U.S. as of this month, many, especially candidates challenging the Governor in the recall election next month, spoke out against the new requirement on Wednesday, citing personal choice issues, the difference between encouragement and ordering, and charging that Newsom is using statewide mandates through state workers and educators as political tools rather than a health policy.
Radio host Larry Elder, who is currently in the lead among recall candidates with 23% polling, said in a tweet “Gov. Elder will reverse this order. Encouraging vaccination is fine. Government mandating it is not.”
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) August 11, 2021
2018 GOP Gubernatorial candidate and fellow recall candidate John Cox also weighed in with a statement on Wednesday. “Gavin Newsom is a power hungry politician who wants to control every aspect of people’s lives,” said Cox. “Now he is effectively threatening people’s employment if they don’t do what he tells them to. We must draw the line and protect people’s freedoms.”
Outsider and CPA John Cox today said he strongly opposed Gavin Newsom’s latest vaccine mandate which would force teachers to get vaccinated or face regular invasive testing. pic.twitter.com/ZF1PhVaJtP
— John Cox (@BeastJohnCox) August 11, 2021
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) specifically charged Newsom as using mandates as political machinations rather, tweeting on Wednesday that “Gavin Newsom needs to stop using teachers and nurses as political pawns. No other state has these mandates. A vote for the Recall is a vote for basic decency.”
Gavin Newsom needs to stop using teachers and nurses as political pawns. No other state has these mandates. A vote for the Recall is a vote for basic decency.
— Kevin Kiley (@KevinKileyCA) August 11, 2021
Newsom’s Wednesday order follows other local, county, and state vaccination mandate orders, including mandating vaccinations for all state workers in late July.
Additional vaccinations covering large groups of people are expected in the coming weeks as delta variant cases continue to rise.
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