3 Bay Area counties urge employers to require COVID vaccination for workers

Health officials from San Francisco, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties on Thursday urged employers to require their workers get the COVID-19 vaccination to ensure a safe workplace

"We can see that COVID is here to stay. And it’s really a choice at this point of, am I gonna get vaccinated, or am I gonna get COVID," said Dr. Chris Fornitano of the Contra Costa County Health Dept.

The trio fear there could be another full-blown COVID crisis, and are recommending employers require employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In their joint statement, they reminded that employers are currently, under state law, required to enforce masking in the workplace for employees who are not fully vaccinated. Employers are additionally being urged to require frequent COVID testing of unvaccinated employees. 

SEE ALSO:  Napa, Monterey, Santa Cruz counties and others join in recommendation to mask indoors in public

They said there are 28 new cases per 100,000 people statewide, mostly in people who are not vaccinated. And most of those have the Delta variant. That’s more than 10 times the case rate for those who are vaccinated.

The three health officers said the private sector taking the lead could stem the tide of COVID-19 cases.

"This surge is among the unvaccinated folks which is why it’s so important that everyone who isn’t vaccinated get vaccinated," said Dr. George Han, the Santa Clara County deputy health officer.

In San Jose’s SoFA neighborhood, Nirvana Soul is a new coffee shop that has stayed in business by practicing COVID safety measures. Co-owner Dap Ashaolu says his 10 employees haven’t stopped wearing masks, and all are vaccinated.

"We just shared the CDC recommendations. We always share the county recommendations with our staff, and we leave it up to them to make the decision for themselves," said Ashaolu.

Health officials say their current recommendation could become a health order if COVID case rates continue climbing. They also noted that the relaxing of protections in California in mid-June has also contributed to the significant rise in cases. 

"Could there be further actions in the future? Yes or course. We’re not saying anything is off the table," said Dr. Han. Added Prof. Margaret Russell, a constitutional law expert at the Santa Clara Univ. School of Law, "It has to be a compelling reason, which I think people would agree the current situation is."

Prof. Russell said in the early 20th century during a Smallpox outbreak in Boston, the nation’s High Court allowed vaccination requirements.

"Even the constitutional right to liberty and bodily autonomy has to give way to a public health or public safety emergency," she said.

The three health officers stressed they would rather businesses and employees act now, as opposed to an out of control crisis mandating inoculations and a subsequent court battle.

You can read the health officers' full statement here