JNJ-78436735 during Phase 3 trials. JNJ-78436735 is Janssen Pharmaceuticals Companies of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. It is a one-dose vaccine for individuals 18 and over, with full protection 28 days after vaccination. The vaccine has been shown to be effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death. (Photo courtesy of Janssen Pharmaceuticals)

Sonoma County is asking public safety employees to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing starting Sept. 1.

The mandate was announced Wednesday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise across the county and state due in part to the highly contagious delta variant.

Currently, the mandate only applies to emergency medical service workers, firefighters, law enforcement and disaster shelter staff, but the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider extending the requirement to all county workers in an Aug. 17 meeting.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick supported the requirement, saying in a statement that public safety employees are put at a greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 due to their work. In a statement, County Health Officer Sundari Mase said the county was setting an example and urged other employers to require either vaccination or regular testing.

“The vaccine is safe, effective, free and needed now more than ever,” Mase said. “The delta variant is a much more aggressive and contagious form of COVID and is at the root of much of our recent surge in cases. The vaccine is the best tool that we have to combat it.”

The mandate follows an announcement Monday that required county residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

COVID-19 cases in the county recently hit their highest levels since February, sitting at 36.4 new cases per day per 100,000 residents for unvaccinated individuals and 8.0 new cases per day per 100,000 residents for vaccinated individuals. Seventy percent of Sonoma County residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the county.