Teachers in California must have proof of vaccination or face regular testing, the governor says.
Teachers and school staff in California must have proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or be tested weekly, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, making the state the first in the country to do so.
The move comes as these mandates gain momentum among public and private employers, as cases in the United States have jumped amid the spread of the Delta variant. Several locations in California have renewed mask restrictions, including Los Angeles County.
Many large companies, including Google, Disney, Tyson Foods and Microsoft, have announced certain vaccination requirements for workers returning to offices and factories.
While California officials initially emphasized that they were simply encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, the governor announced late last month that the state would require health care workers and government employees to get vaccinated. ‘State be vaccinated or tested at least once a week.
State health officials on Thursday made the requirement even stricter for many, largely removing the option of testing for more than two million health care workers in the state.
But it was not clear at the time if California would extend a mandate to hundreds of thousands of educators, who are in the midst of a busy start to school after about a year of distance learning.
Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten, head of the powerful American Federation of Teachers, expressed his strongest support to date for the mandatory vaccination of educators against Covid, saying on Sunday that she would urge her union leadership to reconsider its stance against vaccination mandates.
“It’s not new to have vaccinations in schools,” Ms. Weingarten said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show. “And I think for a personal matter, for a matter of personal conscience, I think we need to work with our employers, not oppose them, on vaccination mandates.”
Earlier this week, Oakland Unified School District officials announced that all teachers and staff, including contractors and volunteers, must be vaccinated or tested weekly to be on campus.
Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference in front of a colorful mural, Dr Kyla Johnson-Trammell, district superintendent, said vaccines were essential “to keep our schools and communities safe.”
For Newsom, getting children safely back to classrooms is a particularly high-stakes task. Next month, state voters will be asked if they want to remove the governor from office, and frustration over prolonged school closings among parents has been a major factor in supporting his ouster.
Schools have been closed longer in California than in other states, largely because of its brutal winter wave, but also because of protracted negotiations with the state’s large and powerful teachers’ unions, which have demanded many safety precautions, including priority access to vaccine doses.
Becky Zoglman, spokesperson for the California Teachers Association, said surveys have shown that about 90 percent of the union’s 310,000 members have already been vaccinated.
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