California orders all teachers to be vaccinated or face regular testing.
California became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all educators in public and private schools on Wednesday when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered teachers and school staff members to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or face weekly testing.
“We think it’ll be well-received to keep our most precious resource healthy and safe,” he said, “and that’s our children.”
The policy applies to staff members serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade and will go into effect on Thursday, with the deadline for full compliance being Oct. 15.
Similar mandates are gaining momentum among public and private employers as cases across the United States have jumped with the spread of the Delta variant.
In Hawaii, officials announced last week that all state and county employees, including public-school teachers, must be vaccinated or be tested weekly. But California’s policy goes a step further by including private schools.
While California officials initially emphasized they were merely encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, the governor announced late last month that the state would require vaccines or testing at least weekly for health-care workers and state government employees. Last week, state health officials made the requirement even more stringent, largely removing the testing option for more than two million health-care workers. But it wasn’t clear then whether California would extend a mandate to hundreds of thousands of educators.
Debate over how to safely reopen schools has been intense and ongoing for months, and decisions over whether to require inoculations have emerged as a recent flash point.
Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, expressed her strongest support to date for mandatory vaccination of educators, saying she would urge her union’s leadership to reconsider its opposition to vaccine mandates.
“It’s not a new thing to have immunizations in schools,” Ms. Weingarten said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I think that on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates.”
Cecily Myart-Cruz, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said in a statement that the group “doesn’t oppose” the vaccine mandate — but it alone is not enough.
“Vaccines are like seatbelts: necessary but not invincible,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s practice of testing students and staff members weekly, even if they have been vaccinated, “exceeds the requirement announced by Governor Gavin Newsom today,” the statement said.
For Mr. Newsom, getting children back into classrooms is a task with particularly high stakes. Next month, voters will be asked whether they want to recall the governor, and frustration among parents over prolonged school closures has been a significant driver of support for his ouster.
What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots
The F.D.A. has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna recipients who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older, and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can get a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second shot at least two months after the first.
Yes. The F.D.A. has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they initially received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine when possible.
The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.
The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.
Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.
Speaking in Oakland, on Wednesday, the governor was flanked by local elected officials who drew an explicit contrast between the pandemic response by Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, and states where conservative leaders are seeking to block vaccine mandates and masking requirements.
Schools were closed longer in California than in many other states in large part because of a brutal winter surge, but also because of protracted negotiations with teachers unions, who demanded extensive safety precautions.
On Wednesday, the president of the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest and an affiliate of the National Education Association, said it supported the vaccine mandate.
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multitiered safety measures,” the union president, E. Toby Boyd, said in a statement.