California is the first state in the nation to require all state employees and health care workers to provide proof of vaccination as COVID-19 rates rise, officials said on Monday, July 26.
Additionally, unvaccinated employees or employees declining to present proof of vaccination will be subject to coronavirus testing at least once a week, according to the California Department of Human Resources.
Gov. Gavin Newsom discussed the new guidance at a news conference hosted at Kaiser Permanente Headquarters in Oakland.
Monday’s announcement effectively eliminates the “honor system” that many California employers have been operating by.
“We are now asking for that verification, no longer encouraging self-attestation,” Newsom said. “This is a requirement to prove you’ve been vaccinated. And if you have not, you will be tested.”
Both public and private healthcare workers will face similar requirements.
There are at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller’s office, and at least 2 million health care workers in the public and private sectors.
In a tweet following the news conference, Newsom said California will have the strongest state vaccine verification systems in the United States.
Newsom added, “We’re experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Everyone that can get vaccinated—should.”
The new policy for state workers will take effect on Aug. 2, while health care workers and facilities will begin on Aug. 9. Health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to come into full compliance.
Although not a requirement, Newsom encourages local governments and businesses to require workers to provide proof of vaccination or once-a-week testing.
The governor’s office says more than 44 million vaccine doses have been administered and 75% of the eligible population receiving at least one dose.
However, the state officials say there is an increase in the number of people who have refused the vaccine being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and dying.
Officials say that this increase is due to the Delta variant, a mutated strain of SARS-CoV-2.
“We must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “The Delta variant is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain.”
According to health officials, as of last week, the state-wide case rate has quadrupled from as low as 1.9 cases per 100,000 in May to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000 people.
The testing positivity rate has risen from 0.7% in June to 5.2%, while hospitalizations went up from under 900 to 3,000.
“We’re at a point in this pandemic where individual’s choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” Newsom said.