ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Get vaccinated or be tested: that's the latest mandate for first responders in Alameda County.
They join neighboring counties like Santa Clara San Francisco and Contra Costa with similar mandates for employees.
In the city of Fremont, the writing is literally on the wall. The banners on the street say COVID knows no age, race, color, or religion.
Alameda County says getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others from the virus and they are doubling down on that notion with a new vaccine mandate for employees engaged in 9-1-1 ambulance transport, non-emergency medical transport and first responders (including law enforcement and fire).
"Having people vaccinated when you're exposed to thousands of people, whether it be in our jail setting or out in the public, makes everyone safer," Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern said. "It makes first responders safer and the people that we come in contact safer if everyone is vaccinated."
For the nearly 4,000 emergency personnel in the county like fire sheriff's and EMT's - a new choice.
Get fully vaccinated or take weekly tests and wear a mask while in the presence of patients or residents while entering high-risk health care facilities.
Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said in a statement Tuesday:
"Evidence shows that unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected by the virus that causes COVID-19, which is transmitted through the air. Unvaccinated providers entering High-Risk Health Care Facilities can spread COVID-19. This Order is necessary to reduce that risk and protect older and medically vulnerable residents and staff.
COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe illness and death. While a fully vaccinated person may contract the virus that causes
COVID-19 and infect other people, the risk of infection is substantially lower and vaccinated persons are infectious for a shorter time, reducing the chances that the person will spread the virus to others. Information about vaccination locations is : available here.
We strongly encourage every eligible person to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, especially with the winter and holiday gatherings approaching."
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern says his office already has a similar mandate in place for their 1,700 employees, 54% of them have shown proof of full vaccination to this point.
Sheriff Ahern says he respects those who choose to not get the vaccine and he hopes the mandate doesn't lead to the loss of more critical responders since they also have a choice to get weekly COVID tests
"We need every badged personnel we can dealing with the shortages that we have with staffing now," Sheriff Ahern said. "Even one, two, or three people leaving because of this would be very detrimental to our agency."
The county employees have until December 21 to provide proof of vaccination and a booster shot is not required.
VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine
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