Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is determined to do the right thing, even if it costs him his job.
In an announcement last Wednesday, Newsom said California will become the first state to force all teachers and other school employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing.
As USA Today explained, the order requires teachers and all school employees, including custodians, aides, and bus drivers, to prove their vaccination status to their school district. Employees who are not vaccinated will be required to submit to weekly testing.
“We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open,” Newsom said at a school in Oakland. He noted the measure aims to reassure parents that the state’s schools “are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe, to keep our kids healthy.”
The nation’s most populous state employs some 320,000 people in more than 1,000 school districts. California has more than 6.1 million students.
The governor’s order aligns with recommendations from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 advisor to President Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci.
“I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should,” Fauci said on MSNBC about mandates for teachers. “We’ve had 615,000-plus deaths, and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business. You would wish that people would see why it’s so important to get vaccinated.”
Newsom’s state policy will go into effect on Aug. 12, 2021, and schools must be in full compliance by Oct. 15, 2021.
“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,” Newsom said. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
As Deadline explained, Newsom’s decision comes at a critical time, when the Delta variant has led to an increase in children’s cases.
For the week ending Aug. 5, 2021, children accounted for 15% of reported weekly Covid-19 cases. According to the CDC, the only time in 2020 when the percentage of Covid cases among Americans under 18 accounted for a larger share of infections was during the winter surge in November and December of that year.
Although one of the last states to join the massive vaccination campaign, California administered 335,009 new first doses last week, a 24% increase from the previous two weeks, according to the governor’s office. That’s a 62% increase compared to the week of July 5-11. Currently, 63% of Californians age 12 and older are fully vaccinated. As of August 10, 2021, less than 41% of Californians aged 12 to 17 were fully vaccinated. Children under 12 years of age are not currently eligible for any licensed vaccines.