LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — All state employees and workers at hospitals and health care facilities across the state will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and those who are unable or refuse to receive the vaccine will be required to be tested weekly.
Vaccine verification for state employees is expected to start as early as next week, and the system will be implemented over the coming weeks. Compliance for all healthcare settings, both public and private, will be expected by Aug. 23 across the state. California is the first state to implement such a policy.
The policy falls short of a vaccine mandate, but instead offers employees the option of undergoing regular COVID testing instead of requiring proof of vaccination.
The new policy comes as new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging nationwide, mostly among people who are not vaccinated. California leads the nation in vaccinations, with more than 44 million doses administered and 75% of the eligible population having received at least one dose, but is also seeing an influx of patients coming severely ill and dying due to the more contagious Delta variant. State officials say California is now approaching 3,000 hospitalizations, not even a month after that number was under 900 in June.
In his announcement at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Alameda County, Gov. Gavin Newsom lambasted conservative politicians and pundits for the misinformation campaign that has made so many people hesitant to get the vaccine.
"We are exhausted, respectfully. Exhausted by the ideological prism that too many Americans are living under. We're exhausted by the Ron Johnsons, the Tucker Carlsons. We're exhausted by the Marjorie Taylor Greenes," Newsom said. "We're exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety. We're exhausted by the politicalization of this pandemic, and that includes mask wearing. It has been equated to the Holocaust -- it's disgraceful, it's unconstitutional, and it's unconscionable, and it needs to be called out."
California is the first state to announce these new rules for state employees and healthcare workers.
Following this move is the city of L.A., which told CBS Los Angeles that it too will consider a similar vaccination requirement for city employees.
Councilman Ridley-Thomas released a statement Monday night saying that the decision to consider such an action was due to the recent rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as the Delta variant spreads, saying,
"In light of the recent rise in infections and hospitalizations—and, in particular, of the more contagious Delta variant—I believe that now is the time to scale up our COVID-19 precautions. Sixteen months into the pandemic with widespread availability of vaccines, only 2,171,413 Angelinos aged 16+, representing 66.3% of the City's population, have received vaccinations. In the County of Los Angeles, 46% of African Americans and 55% of Latinos have been vaccinated. This not only impedes Los Angeles' economic recovery but continues to put countless individuals at risk."
"The City of Los Angeles must lead by example. During Wednesday's Council meeting, I plan to introduce a motion that would direct staff to develop a policy to require all City employees be fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus; and report their COVID-19 vaccination status to the appropriate City department. Plain and simple - vaccinations are the only way out of this pandemic. They are the most effective way to prevent transmission and limit COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. If we want our economy to fully recover, if we want our children to be able to go to school without masks on, and if we want the most vulnerable members of our community to not end up in the hospital, we must all do our part and this motion is a step in the right direction. It's time to get it done."
Lawyers for the Department of Justice recently said there's nothing in federal law preventing private and public businesses from requiring the coronavirus vaccine for their employees.
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