California to require vaccine or testing for state workers

California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly, tightening restrictions in an effort to slow rising coronavirus infections in the nation’s most populous state, mostly among the unvaccinated.

The new rule will take effect next month, officials announced Monday. There are at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller’s office, and at least 2 million health care workers in the public and private sectors.

“An individual’s choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in announcing the new policy.

Some cities in California have also said they will require municipal employees to get vaccinated. And the mayor of Pasadena recently urged all cities to mandate vaccines for their workers.

Long Beach has not said whether it will take similar steps, only that it is closely watching the issue. Recently, the city has been surveying its workers to try to get an accurate count of how many are vaccinated. On Monday, city spokesperson Chelsey E. Magallon said the city still does not have a complete count.

“The requested data is still being gathered at this time and is not yet available,” Magallon said in an email.

About 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, and the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks. In Long Beach, 68.5% of eligible residents are vaccinated, according to the most recently available data, but the number of people getting first doses has slowed significantly from the spring.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia hasn’t publicly taken a stance on whether the city should require vaccines for its workers, but on Monday, he said the number of vaccinations administered locally has increased slightly—ticking up 28% over the past two weeks.

Nevertheless, “more needs to be done to ensure we beat this pandemic,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, the more contagious delta variant now makes up an estimated 80% of infections in California. Hospitalizations are on the rise, though still far below where they were during the winter peak.

Despite the change for state workers and increasing infections, the Democratic governor has been hesitant to impose new requirements on mask-wearing or social distancing since he allowed the state to reopen on June 15. It comes as Newsom faces a recall election in September that’s largely over his handling of the pandemic, with California having been the first to impose a statewide stay-at-home order last year and business and school shutdowns lasting longer than many other states.

Now, local governments like Los Angeles County and Long Beach are requiring or urging residents again to wear masks indoors. And cities and counties in the San Francisco Bay Area previously imposed COVID-19 vaccination requirements for workers.

Santa Clara County officials said they plan to require all 22,000 county employees to get vaccinations, not waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval for the COVID-19 vaccine to implement the policy, which is still being developed.

Officials said most employees are already fully vaccinated.

New York City also announced Monday that it will require all of its municipal workers—including teachers and police officers—to get vaccines by mid-September or face weekly testing.

In California, those without proof of vaccination will continue to be required to wear masks at work.

“If they’re not vaccinated and we cannot verify that they’ve been vaccinated, we are requiring that they get tested,” Newsom said of state workers. “California is committed to vaccination, verification and or testing on a weekly basis. We’re not stopping just with state employees.”

He said vaccine verification will also be required in jails and homeless shelters.

Long Beach Post Breaking News Editor Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report.

Long Beach doesn’t yet know how many city employees are vaccinated, hasn’t decided on mandate

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