Personal care assistant Riza Green receives a COVID-19 vaccine
Personal care assistant Riza Green receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Carefield Assisted Living Facility in Castro Valley.
(Anne Wernikoff / CalMatters)
Health & Wellness

California first in nation to mandate vaccinations for health care workers

Medical workers must complete their inoculations by Sept. 30 under the order issued Thursday. California also ordered all visitors at hospitals and other medical facilities to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 beginning next Wednesday.

California on Thursday issued the first order in the nation that requires COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers, allowing only for religious or rare medical exemptions.

Employees of hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical facilities have until Sept. 30 to get either the first and only dose of a one-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) or the second dose of a two-dose regimen (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) under the new order issued by Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California’s public health officer. In the meantime, they must either be vaccinated or undergo mandatory weekly testing, under the state’s previous order issued last week.

California also ordered visitors to hospitals, skilled nursing homes and facilities for the developmentally disabled to be fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours. The order applies only to indoor visits and goes into effect on Wednesday.

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The new requirement for medical workers tightens Gov. Gavin Newsom’s move last week to require health care workers and state employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

The orders come as California — along with the rest of the nation — grapples with a surge of cases propelled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which represented about 86% of cases as of July 21, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” Aragón said in a news release. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”

More than 9,500 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday, a sharp increase from mid-June when the state’s economy largely reopened and just over 1,000 daily cases were reported.

Health Officer Gail Newel said Tuesday that while Santa Cruz County officials are discussing whether to follow most of...