ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom and California health officials have announced a vaccine verification and testing program that will be implemented for all state employees and health care workers starting in August.
Workers will need to have evidence of vaccination by Aug. 2. Any state employees who are unvaccinated will have to undergo mandated COVID-19 testing and wear masks.
"I think it's long overdue," says state worker Josh Stewart who works for the Department of Health Services in Sacramento. Stewart has been working from home but is supposed to go back to the office next week. "If I can trust a surgeon to remove something toxic from my body by cutting my body open, I will trust 10,000 scientists that tell me that the vaccine is safe."
Other state workers ABC7's JR Stone talked with agree.
"I completely support it, I have people at home who are at risk, I have school age children," says Dede Duncan.
The new vaccination verification program applies to health care workers too. If health care workers do not vaccinate, they will be subject to testing two times per week. There will also be a recommendation for unvaccinated workers to wear N95 masks.
When asked about mask mandates, Newsom said we wouldn't need to have the debate if everyone would get vaccinated, and then made this comparison to drunk driving: "It's like drunk drivers, you don't have the right to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else at risk, including your own life at risk. Those non-pharmaceutical interventions like face coverings and masking were necessary in the absence of vaccines, but with these vaccines, we can extinguish this virus once and for all."
State health officials are aiming for full compliance of state employees by Aug. 23.
"246,000 Californians are state employees, 246,000 Californians should be vaccinated," said Gov. Newsom. "Individuals choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us."
75% of Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine but the state's struggling to get the last 25% vaccinated as COVID cases increase.
"We're not stopping just with state employees today we're also announcing partnerships that include those like Kaiser, private sector now stepping up organizations representing physicians, dentists, dialysis clinics, stepping up, private sector clinics are committing to the same in health care settings they're committed not only to verification of vaccines but also testing," said Gov. Newsom.
California's largest public sector union is rejecting this vaccine requirement. They represent nearly 100,000 state employees.
"I absolutely do not believe this is right. I can understand trying to get people vaccinated to help the greater good. I respect that however to those who do not want to be vaccinated and feel like this is a violation of your medical privacy I stand with those people... for this governor to do this is wrong," said Local 1,000 President Richard Brown.
Luz Pena: "What are some of the consequences of refusing to get vaccinated could state employees, lose their jobs?"
Gov. Newsom: "We have existing MOU's and the process and procedures as it relates to workplace rules. This is just going to be added into that. And so you look through the bargaining unit so look through the MOU's or look at the language. And there's processes and protocols that are well established while in place. This is a requirement."
On Monday, 65 people died in California from COVID-19.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's Health Secretary says the Delta variant accounting for 83% of all COVID cases statewide is their biggest concern urging them to act fast.
"The Delta variant is a different beast," said Dr. Ghaly."We were at 900 people at the hospital with COVID on June 15 when we reopened."
COVID cases have been on the rise in the state with 7,500 cases per day over the weekend. The 7-day average is now 6,400 cases per day. Hospitalizations are rising rapidly to around 3,000. There have been 600 patients admitted each day over the last three days.
A majority of the new cases are among those who have not been vaccinated, health officials said. The case rate is now 14 per 100,000 among unvaccinated people and two per 100,000 for those who are vaccinated. That's up from May 15, when the case rate was 1.9 per 100,000 among all Californians.
"Bottom line, vaccines are the road through this even with the Delta spreading faster," said CA HHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
The state has administered more than 43 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Six Bay Area counties have now urged residents to wear facemasks indoors.
In L.A. County, masks are required indoors also regardless of vaccination status.
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