California teachers must get COVID-19 vaccines or regular testing

All California teachers will be required to show proof of vaccination or a take regular COVID-19 tests, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

California will require all staff – teachers, custodial staff, bus drivers and others – to submit a proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing, he said at a news conference at an elementary school in Alameda County. 

“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keep schools open,” Newsom said. “And to address the No. 1 anxiety that parents like myself have – I have four young children – and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep their kids healthy.”

California was one of the first states to mandate masks in its public school system, and one of the first to require vaccines for health care employees, Newsom said. 

Governor Newsom Highlights CA’s Work to Protect Students & School Employees as Schools Reopen by California Governor Gavin Newsom on YouTube

The new statewide policy, the first of is kind in the U.S., will take effect August 12, 2021, and schools must be in full compliance by October 15, 2021, according to the governor’s office.

Free testing resources are available to K-12 schools through the “CA K-12 schools testing program.” Schools may also use money from the state’s emergency relief funds and grants, according to the state’s health department. 

The order applies to public and private schools serving kindergarten through grade 12, inclusive. It does not apply to home schooling, child care or to higher education.

The decision on teachers comes about a week after the California Department of Public Health said all of its roughly 2.2 million health care workers and long-term care workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by September 30.

That order differed from Newsom’s July announcement that health care workers would have the choice of either getting vaccinated or submitting to weekly testing.

On Tuesday, the Long Beach Unified School district said it would implement mandatory vaccinations for school teachers and staff, becoming the largest district in the state to do so, said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

“In addition, with mandates in place for state and county employees – public employees in Long Beach will lead the nation in working to keep people safe and defeat this pandemic,” Garcia said, urging that all “public institutions across the state and country should do the same.”

Other major cities have also required public employees to get vaccinated. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s rule applies to all municipal workers, including in the Department of Education, police and fire departments, CBS New York reports. The mandate is expected to begin September 13.

The University of California system announced it would require vaccines for students, faculty and staff at its nine public colleges and universities.

The head of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, said U.S. schools should require teachers to get vaccines. This statement comes after more children have gotten sick from COVID-19 in recent months. 

“The circumstances have changed,” union President Randi Weingarten said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “It weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated.”

In March, President Joe Biden prioritized teachers and school staff for access to the COVID vaccine, the White House said in a statement. Almost 90% of educators and school staff were vaccinated by August 2, according to the White House.

The American Federation of Teachers says a survey of educators showed just 81% had been vaccinated by August 6. Of the 18% of educators who have not yet been vaccinated or don’t yet have an appointment, about half — 48% — say they do not plan to get a shot, according to the survey, citing hesitancy about vaccines, lack of research or the desire for more information. This means approximately 10% of total educators in the survey said they will not be vaccinated.