California is about to become the first state in the U.S. to require school employees to either show proof that they are vaccinated against COVID-19, or be subject to weekly testing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the statewide public health order for K-12 teachers and staff on Wednesday as schools resume in-person instruction after the pandemic forced more than a year of distance learning.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a first-in-the-nation, statewide policy requiring all school teachers and employees in the state to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing. pic.twitter.com/91TZPnCOqn
— Poli Alert (@polialertcom) August 11, 2021
The requirement comes as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread in California and elsewhere, fueling a nationwide surge in cases and hospitalizations.
The new policy goes into effect Thursday, and schools must be fully compliant with the policy by Oct. 15.
“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,” the Democratic governor said during a late-morning news conference. “And that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe.
Before Newsom’s announcement, California had already issued a similar requirement for state employees and health care workers.
Officials hope these requirements will spur more residents to get the COVID shot, even as the Golden State has one of the highest vaccination rates in the U.S.
“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic,” Newsom said in his announcement. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
To date, about 63% of Californians 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 77.5% of eligible residents have received at least one dose.
“It’s not good enough,” Newsom said. “We have more work to do.”
While the order impacting educators is the first statewide one in the U.S., local districts have already said they would implement a proof of vaccine requirement.