It is the first state to require vaccination or mandatory testing for its teaching and non-teaching staff in schools.
California will become the first state in the United States to require all teachers and school personnel to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.
The state's mandate for vaccination for teachers comes as schools return from summer vacations amid growing concerns about the highly contagious delta species.
Newsom announced a new policy at the San Francisco Bay Area School, which reopened after the summer break. Many California schools are back in session, with others starting in the coming weeks.
We believe this is the right thing to do, and we believe it's a sustainable way to keep our schools open and solve the number one problem for young children of parents like me, Newsom said.
Several large school districts in the state have issued similar requirements recently, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and the Long Beach Unified School District.
Like the rest of the country, California has seen a worrying rise in COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant, which accounts for the vast majority of new cases. In addition, it has affected children more than previous strains of the virus.
In recent weeks, Newsom mandated that all healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated for employment, with no option to conduct periodic testing, and required all state employees to be vaccinated or choose weekly testing.
For schools, Newsom issued a masks mandate for indoor classes that applies to teachers and students, but as of Wednesday, had left the decision of whether vaccinations are required to local districts.
On Sunday, Randy Wingerton, president of the country's second-largest teachers' union, said things had changed. I am very sorry that children under 12 cannot be vaccinated".
Delta variant, bad news for children
In the US, pediatric COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, along with issues among unvaccinated adults. As a result, children's hospitalizations have now reached a pandemic record high. In the last week of July, nearly 72,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in children, almost a fifth of the total known infections in the US, and a rough doubling of the statistics from the previous week.
"It is the biggest jump in the pandemic so far among children," said Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last week, that same statistic rose to nearly 94,000.
The most severe pediatric cases are among the worst in the pandemic to date. In the south, where communities have struggled to get injections and enthusiasm for masks has been spotty, intensive care units in children's hospitals are filling up. In several states, healthcare workers say that children, many of them previously wholly healthy, are beginning to get sick and deteriorate faster than ever, with no apparent end in sight.
The COVID-19 vaccine has done an extraordinary job of eradicating disease and death. But as the hyper-transmissible Delta variant hits the United States, the unvaccinated are taking on the most significant hardship. This population includes some 50 million children under the age of 12.