The California Department of Public Health said Thursday it would implement what officials described as a “first in the nation” mandate that health care workers be fully vaccinated, requiring it by the end of September.
The department said the vaccine mandate was a necessary response to “increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU patients due to the highly contagious Delta variant.” The order applies to workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities.
“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,” CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Tomás J. Aragón said. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”
According to the executive order, workers need to receive their second dose or be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. The state said it would offer limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
Workers who qualified for those exemptions would have to submit to weekly or biweekly COVID-19 testing, depending on the facility. They would also be required to wear a medical-grade mask while on site.
In a separate executive order, public health officials said health care facilities can only admit visitors who are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of an indoor visit to a patient.
The measures were announced roughly one week after embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom said health care workers must either be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a similar measure earlier this week requiring city workers to be vaccinated or undergo testing. On the national level, President Biden implemented rules requiring federal workers to confirm they were vaccinated or undergo weekly tests, wear a mask and adhere to social distancing.