K-12 teachers across California will be required to prove their full vaccination status against COVID-19 by mid-October or be subject to weekly testing, state officials announced Wednesday.
The requirement via public health order from the California Department of Public Health will take effect Thursday, according to the state, and is the state’s latest effort to shrink the number of unvaccinated workers in both the public and private sectors.
Gov. Gavin Newsom joined education and political officials in Oakland to announce the vaccine verification requirement, arguing that the state has a responsibility to continue pushing its vaccination total higher.
As of Wednesday, 77.5 percent of state residents age 12 and up have received at least one dose of the available COVID-19 vaccines, which have all but eliminated the threat of serious illness and death for those who are fully inoculated.
“There’s no substitute for vaccinations,” Newsom said, “except those non-pharmaceutical interventions we’ve all come to know well, and that’s continued testing, contact tracing … and continuing to do what we can to encourage people to wear face coverings.”
The state will continue mandating that students and staff members wear face coverings indoors at schools regardless of vaccination status, a policy state officials have framed as both an added layer of protection against more transmissible strains of COVID-19 like the delta variant and a way to prevent stigmatizing unvaccinated students.
Some school districts such as San Francisco’s have gone even further than the requirements announced Wednesday, mandating that all teachers and staff members get fully vaccinated by Sept. 7.
Oakland Education Association president Keith Brown, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe and Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell all threw their support behind the state’s new policy, arguing that the full reopening of schools can only be done safely with preventative measures like vaccination.
“Today’s announcement is a key one to making sure that every student is coming back safe, ready to learn (and) every staff member is feeling safe and supported,” Monroe said.
State education officials have likewise lined up behind requiring teachers to prove their vaccination status or get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week.
On Monday, California Teachers Association president E. Toby Boyd reiterated the union’s support for multiple levels of protection against the virus’ spread, including vaccination.
Boyd also noted that nearly 90 percent of the union’s members have attested that they are vaccinated.
“We know a growing number of educators and local unions are working with their school districts to develop robust testing and vaccine verification policies,” Boyd said in a statement. “We continue to support those local decisions.”
To date, the state has also required full vaccination for health care workers and vaccine verification or regular testing for state employees in an effort to get as many eligible state residents vaccinated as possible.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, argued vaccination and testing requirements are reflective of adults’ responsibility to keep children in the classroom after the pandemic wiped out a full year of in-person classes and social development for many students.
“Our children have endured so much over the last year,” she said. “They need us to do the right thing and take every single safety precaution necessary to allow for a safe learning environment.”