In the face of rising COVID-19 infection rates and a dangerous new Delta variant, Governor Gavin Newsom was compelled to release working mandates in California. Health workers in high-risk settings are now required to submit proof of vaccination by September 30. You can acquire exemptions on religious grounds or for “qualifying health reasons”, but this will require you to submit for regular testing.
The California working mandates cover nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the healthcare facility, and other miscellaneous hospital staff. (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel).
At the time of writing, similar COVID mandates have been placed on state employees and other workers in high-risk areas. The government is also currently looking to enforce the same mandate on private indoor business establishments and students. The COVID mandates of California starkly contrast to some other states, who have prohibited vaccine mandates entirely. Even now, hospitals are preparing for staffing shortages due to firings or suspensions of employees who do not want to take the vaccine. California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea expressed concerns over how “it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem.”
Despite this, it is clear that this California working mandate is the right course of action. Healthcare facilities have been identified as high risk areas with vulnerable populations. A COVID-19 outbreak could mean complications, further hospitalization or death for the immunocompromised. This includes the elderly, chronically ill, and disabled. HCPs take first priority in vaccine distribution because of this, yet outbreaks in healthcare settings are still being traced back to unvaccinated nurses.
While it may be too early to tell, early numbers following the COVID mandate have been encouraging. The CDC evaluates a state’s COVID-19 transmission rates and categorizes them into one of four tiers, from worst to best: high (red), substantial (orange), moderate (yellow) and low (blue). As of September 14 2021, California covid tiers improved from red to orange. It was one of the few states that managed to see improvement. Among other factors, Dr. Erica Pan credits this to the state’s relatively high vaccination rates. As of August, 63% of Californians 12 years or older have taken all their shots, while an extra 10% are partially vaccinated.
It is important to note, however, that the decline in numbers is mostly centered around major areas like Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego. Meanwhile, rural counties continue to see extremely high COVID-19 rates. That being said, it is clear that the California working mandate has been a net benefit for the Golden State.