Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s imposition of a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for school employees in California on Wednesday, state school health leaders are voicing their support for the initiative, emphasizing its ability to protect students and school employees from COVID-19.
As students begin to return to school, parents across the country are concerned about how safe their children will be in crowded schools as the Delta variant spreads rapidly. In contrast to states like Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has denounced vaccine and mask mandates, California is aiming to protect its students and school employees through executive action.
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Newsom said in a statement:
“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic. As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
Newsom’s public health order, which went into effect on Thursday, requires all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once a week. Schools must be fully compliant by Oct. 15, 2021.
Tracy Mendez, executive director of the California School-Based Health Alliance, supports the mandate, telling State of Reform her organization encourages vaccinations as well as continued mask-wearing.
“The California School-Based Health Alliance supports efforts to ensure broader COVID immunity among adolescents and adults, especially in low-income communities and communities of color most impacted by COVID. We encourage vaccinations and mitigation efforts like masking for school staff and health care providers in order to protect students, workers, families, and communities.”
Ron Tanimura, director of student medical services at the Los Angeles Unified School District, told State of Reform he too approves of the order.
“I believe Governor Newsom’s first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate is a positive step in our ever-increasing quest to ensure that our schools open with the highest level of safety measures in place. Vaccinations play a pivotal role and I applaud our governor for taking this bold step.”
California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd also voiced his support in a recent statement, highlighting the mandate’s importance in combating the threat of the Delta variant.
“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 multi-tiered safety measures. Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”
California COVID cases have been steadily increasing since the beginning of July, although they have leveled out in the past few days. 54% of Californians have been fully vaccinated.