SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a health order mandating all K-12 teachers in the state must be fully vaccinated or submit to routine COVID-19 testing as a public health and safety measure.
According to the State Department of Public Health, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a significant challenge in California. COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing infection, serious disease, hospitalization, and death. At present, 63% of Californians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated with an additional 10% partially vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for any authorized vaccines.
In order to best protect students and staff as California starts the school year fully in-person, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a new public health order requiring all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week.
“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,” said Governor Newsom. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
The new policy for school staff will take effect August 12, 2021, and schools must be in full compliance by October 15, 2021. Robust and free testing resources are available to K-12 schools through the CA K-12 schools testing program.
“There’s no substitute for in-person instruction, and California will continue to lead the nation in keeping students and staff safe while ensuring fully open classrooms,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “Today’s order will help the state’s continued efforts to increase vaccinations, similar to the orders encouraging state and health care workers and businesses to get vaccinated.”
California is currently experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 22.7 new cases per 100,000 people per day, with case rates increasing tenfold since early June. The Delta variant, which is two times more contagious than the original virus, is currently the most common variant causing new infections in California.
Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air. Most current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated adults. Almost all K-6th graders are unvaccinated and will not be eligible for vaccines at the outset of the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, although some 7-12th grade students will be fully vaccinated by the start of the school year, many will not. As of August 10, 2021, less than 41% of Californians 12 to 17 years old were fully vaccinated.
California is committed to safe, full, in-person learning for all in K-12 schools, following strong public health science. For example, California has implemented a universal masking requirement in all K-12 schools, as well as recommendations around testing strategies for K-12 schools, to support the successful return to full in-person instruction at the outset of the school year, as well as minimizing missed school days.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective means of preventing infection with the COVID-19 virus, and subsequent transmission and outbreaks. Current CDPH K-12 guidance strongly recommends vaccination for all eligible individuals, thereby reducing COVID-19 rates throughout the community, including in schools, and creating a wrap-around safety layer for unvaccinated students. This Order, consistent with this recommendation, requires verification of vaccination status among eligible K-12 school workers, and establishes diagnostic screening testing of unvaccinated workers to minimize the risk that they will transmit while on K-12 school campuses, where a majority of students are not vaccinated and younger students are not yet eligible for vaccines.
Schools may use funds received from multiple sources to address costs associated with employee vaccination verification and COVID-19 diagnostic screening testing, including Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) I, II, and III; Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) I and II; and In-Person Instruction Grants (AB 86). Additionally, the California Department of Public Health provides access to subsidized COVID-19 testing for schools through specified partners.
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