Newsom issues California school staff requirements for vaccine or COVID testing

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a new requirement that all teachers and school staff statewide, show proof of vaccination - or agree to weekly COVID tests, after several large Bay Area school districts have enacted similar policies.

He laid out the new rules at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland, which cannot technically be called a vaccine mandate because people who don't want to be vaccinated, can still continue to work with those negative COVID tests.

Masks are still required for students and staff indoors. 

"This is a state that very proudly was among the first states and country to mandate mask wearing and public education system before this school year," he said, noting other requirements to vaccinate state employees and healthcare workers. "We're now following up today to align our schools strategy to the state strategy and become the first state in the country to require that all of our staff, not just teachers, but credentialed staff, educators, custodial staff, the bus drivers, folks that are critical to supporting the entire school ecosystem also submit a verification of vaccination and or submit to weekly testing."

He added: "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, with young children, and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe, to keep our kids healthy. And that's what we're doing here in the state of California."

The new policy for school staff will take effect Aug. 12 and schools must be in full compliance by Oct. 15. 

At this point, there is no requirement to make students who are eligible to become vaccinated, Newsom said. 

Oakland Unified School District was the latest to announce this policy.

Late Tuesday, Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell announced that all educators and staff at their schools will need to verify they've been vaccinated or agree to take weekly COVID tests. 

Oakland's teachers union agreed with the decision, saying that 92% of their members have already been fully vaccinated.

"Oakland educators have worked preparing for this moment, the first week of school," OEA president Keith Brown said Wednesday. "We made sure that we had safety protocols in place, such as air filtration and ventilation, safety protocols, PPE and the necessary safety supplies. Now, with this announcement, we have a very important layer of protection for our students in place. I encourage all who can to get vaccinated."

He added emphatically: "Vaccines work, and they keep our students and community safe." 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who also has children in public schools, said that 300,000 city residents have now been vaccinated, but that the "vaccination rate is still too low."

Fully vaccinated Oaklanders are only at 69%, she said.

San Francisco Unified School District announced a similar policy earlier this week:

All Marin County's public and private school teachers are required to do the same.

San Jose Unified District was the first in the Bay Area to enact a vaccine verification policy.

Children under the age of 12 aren't eligible for the COVID vaccine, yet.

Dr. Anthony Fauci explained his support for the idea of a vaccine verification policy

Nhung Le (right) reacts as she receives the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Thanh Dinh (left) Asian Health Services nurse practitioner, at a pop-up vaccination clinic, sponsored by Asian Health Service. (Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronic

 for educators.