OAKLAND, Calif. - California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, 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. Health officials couldn’t immediately provide an estimate on size of the health care workforce in the nation’s most populated state.
About 62% of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated, and the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks.
The news came as the 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.
Speaking at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Newsom said the people's individual choice not to get vaccinated "is impacting the rest of us in a profound and deadly way."
Newsom didn't mince words and his tone was terse.
"Your choice not to get vaccinated and to listen to these pundits who are profiteering with misinformation comes at a real societal cost," Newsom said, saying that some people have unfortunately compared mandating mask wearing to the Holocaust.
Added Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks: "We don't want to go back to where we were."
The way out is more vaccinations, Wicks said, "and it's time we take bold action to increase the vaccination rates."
Vaccination status must be shown by Aug. 2 and anyone who is unvaccinated must take part in regular COVID testing.
Unvaccinated healthcare workers in hospitals must get tested twice a week and outpatient centers, once a week, officials said. This applies to all healthcare workers in both the private and public settings.
Employers can then independently decide if they want to implement a vaccine mandate and what measures to take if an employee refuses to get inoculated.
Teachers are not included in the state employee mandate.
A coalition of California business groups reacted to the governor's announcement on Monday and offered their support with a statement.
"The governor’s approach will allow economic recovery to continue while redoubling efforts to encourage vaccinations," the statement read. "We will continue to look to work with the governor on additional ways we can help encourage vaccines without negatively impacting employment opportunities or our economic recovery at this critical stage, while paying special attention to continued outreach to Black and Latino communities, of which 51 percent and 49 percent remain unvaccinated, respectively."
Mayor Libby Schaaf said she was honored the governor chose Oakland as the backdrop for the new rules and she vowed that Oakland would look at what it would take to implement similar policies.
New York City also announced Monday that it will require all of its municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.