California mandates COVID-19 vaccines or testing for all teachers, staff
California on Wednesday became the first state to require all teachers and staff in every school district be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing.
Under the new requirement, all staff – teachers, custodial staff, bus drivers and anyone else who works in schools – will need to submit proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at a news conference at an elementary school in Oakland.
The order comes as California, like the rest of the country, has seen a rise in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations this summer as the delta variant took hold.
“We think this is a sustainable way of keeping schools open,” Newsom said. “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.”
Newsom noted the state was one of the first to mandate masks for all teacher and students. Until the announcement Wednesday, he had left the decision of vaccines up to individual districts.
Some school districts had already announced a vaccine requirement, including Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco.
A similar mandate from Newsom that took effect last week requires state employees and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly coronavirus testing.
An order from the state Department of Health last week mandated all workers in health care settings be fully inoculated or receive their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 30 — with no option of being submitted to weekly virus testing.
Newsom said the order for school staff did not constitute an official mandate, because there is also an option for submitting a negative test instead.
Newsom indicated teachers and staff would not be fired for failing to comply with rule.
“It’s the same way all the rules and regulations within the school system are enforced … we don’t distinguish this versus all the other rules and requirements,” Newsom said. “We think we have enlightened leaders, people who recognize what’s at stake … and we are confident we’ll see compliance.”
Vaccine requirements have been a thorny issue among some labor unions, but the California Teachers Association (CTA) in a statement said it fully supports the move.
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”
Updated at 2:45 p.m.