California Introduces New Statewide Vaccine and Testing Mandate for Certain Employees

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California Introduces New Statewide Vaccine and Testing Mandate for Certain Employees

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has announced that the state will now require employees of the state, as well as health care workers, and those employed in high-risk settings, to supply proof of vaccination or submit to testing for COVID-19 on a weekly basis while following additional safety protocols. This directive comes soon after California has begun suffering from a widespread surge in cases of COVID-19 as well as associated hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the governor, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and these measures are necessary to deal with the new Delta variant. As such, these rules will likely remain unless the numbers drop. Additionally, though these rules currently do not apply to most private employers, they should prepare for a likely expansion of these or similar rules from either the local or the state level soon if the virus continues to spread.

The state is encouraging local governments and private employers to take the state’s lead and establish mandates of their own, and many large municipalities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have announced that they are working on creating their own sets of mandates. The current statewide mandate will apply to all state employees and health care workers as well as those working in high-risk congregate settings. 

Health care employers will likely be the largest section of private employers affected by this new mandate and will include emergency and long-term health care facilities as well as numerous other settings, including clinics, doctor’s offices, dentists, and surgery centers. High-risk congregate settings vary considerably in type of facility but could include locations such as jails, homeless refuges, and senior living centers.

Employers directly covered by the state mandate will be required to take these steps:

  • Establish which employees have received the COVID-19 vaccination
  • Develop requirements for testing employees that have not received a vaccination
  • Employers will also need to comply with the current guides for mask-wearing issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This includes requiring mask wearing for everyone in high-risk settings, including health care facilities. It also encourages mask-wearing for unvaccinated individuals even when not mandated by law and directs even the vaccinated to resume mask-wearing.

California employers in medical and high-risk settings should take immediate steps to ensure they are in compliance with these new mandates. Also, other employers would be well-served to consider reviewing their policies and determining if they are ready for the likely possibility that these rules will be expanded to other private employers.