Santa Clara Co. announces booster mandate for workers in higher-risk settings

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area's largest county, Santa Clara, issued a booster mandate Tuesday for anyone working in health care facilities, jails or homeless shelters. No exception willl be made for those with religious or medical exemptions.

It's a strategic step to keep an expected surge in omicron cases from outstripping its hospital capacity.

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Effective Jan. 24, all workers at health care facilities must have had booster shots. This includes hospitals; long-term, adult daycare and mental care facilities; jails and other correctional facilities; and homeless shelters.

"The local order is a limited measure that's intended to focus on protecting vulnerable populations that these workers interact with, to protect the workers themselves and their co-workers, and to insure continuity of operations in these critical sectors as cases rapidly rise," said county counsel James Williams.

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The new order also takes a hard line on unvaccinated workers, including those with medical or religious exemptions. On Feb. 1, they will be barred from working in the same high-risk settings.

County health officer Dr. Sara Cody stands by her prediction of nearly two weeks ago that an omicron surge is expected, and it will put a major burden on hospitals.

"So even a small proportion will have a significant impact on our hospitals, and that's what we're concerned about," she said.

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At this point, Dr. Cody said the county is not requiring similar vaccination mandates for restaurants and other businesses with high-volume occupancy. She said those establishments have been operating responsibly and safely. However, she urged the public to continue to support them by ordering take-out or delivery.

"Gathering indoors without a mask is not the safest way to be right now with Omicron spiking the way it is," Dr. Cody said.

Just over half of those eligible in Santa Clara County have gotten booster shots. Dr. Cody said vaccination sites are open with appointments usually available within a day.

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