Citing omicron variant-fueled outbreaks at the county jail, nursing homes and other “higher-risk settings,” Marin County officials on Wednesday issued a new health order mandating that first responders be fully vaccinated by mid-April.
The order means unvaccinated law enforcement, firefighters and medical personnel in the county will need to receive their first dose of the vaccine by March 10 and complete their primary series no later than April 15, health officials said.
Affected personnel will also need to be up to date with a booster shot within 15 days of becoming booster-eligible to continue working in higher-risk settings under the new health order, which takes effect Thursday.
Recent COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced to unvaccinated first responders, county officials said, citing public health records.
As of Monday, officials said there were outbreaks in settings that include places where first responders work with people who are at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19. Active outbreaks in the county include one at the Marin County Jail, nine at nursing homes and 19 at other group living facilities.
“These outbreaks have been amplified by contact with unboosted staff, an inadequate testing cadence, and a highly contagious variant,” Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County deputy public health officer, said in a news release. “It is critical to protect our public safety and health care systems from the Omicron variant as well as future waves of COVID-19 activity.”
Starting April 15, unvaccinated or unboosted first responders will be prohibited from entering higher-risk settings or interacting with the public unless they have a qualifying exemption. First responders without a medical or religious exemption can no longer “test out” of vaccination requirements, health officials said.
First responders included in the public health order include police officers, sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, part-time and full-time firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel, and those providing pre-hospital medical care.
The order also applies to first responders who interact with the public.
Marin County has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, with 94.9 % of residents age 5 and older having completed a vaccine series.
“While highly vaccinated, Marin County is experiencing waning community immunity,” Santora said. “It has been more than one year since many first responders completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series.”