'More assertive': Kaiser Permanente, others announce COVID-19 vaccine requirements

By September 30, the health company wants 100% of its employees and physicians to be fully vaccinated.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is a growing list of companies demanding proof of vaccination.

On Monday, Kaiser Permanente announced how it plans to take protection a step further. It will now require all employees and physicians to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and the more transmissible, more infectious Delta variant.

"We know that is maybe more assertive than what other organizations are doing," Michelle J. Gaskill-Hames, Health Plan Operations for Kaiser Permanente, Northern California told reporters. "But we've been a leader in preventing disease and in care innovation, and we believe we've got to lead this across the country."

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Beginning August 23, Kaiser said it will test unvaccinated staff twice a week. By September 30, the health company wants 100-percent of its employees and physicians to be fully vaccinated.

Gaskill-Hames said in Northern California, 78-percent of employees are fully vaccinated. She said 95-percent of physicians are vaccinated as well.

"Our healthcare workers are tired. They are disappointed that we've got a fourth surge. And when we look at it, we believe that this was mostly preventable with vaccinations," Gaskill-Hames added. "So we believe that we're gonna have support from our employees, from our community- that this is the step we need to take to end this pandemic."

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It's a step luxury fitness company Equinox Group is taking and extending to its members and staff. Equinox also owns popular Soul Cycle.

An email out to gym-goers and shared with ABC7 News on Monday, read in-part, "Employees and members will be required to show one-time proof of vaccination to enter all clubs and offices, starting in New York City in early September."

Equinox Gym member Lehoa Nguyen shared, "I rejoined after I was fully vaccinated, but you don't know if other people are. So now that they're taking this step, I expect to be a lot more comfortable in the gym."

"I think for Equinox to take that first stand and say, 'Hey, we're gonna make sure everybody is doing this for the benefit of the community, for the benefit of everybody who goes to the gym.' I think it's a huge thing," she continued.

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Workers at several Bay Area Equinox locations, including the San Mateo and Berkeley, confirm they're rolling out the new mandate, beginning Tuesday. Others declined to comment, directing ABC7 News to Equinox Group corporate offices. We have reached out.

Elsewhere, similar vaccination requirements are at least being considered.

Sutter Health says it's developing its own workforce vaccination policy. Issuing the following statement:
"In addition to complying with the recent state Health Order and applicable local Health Orders, Sutter is developing our own workforce vaccination policy and remains committed to the health and safety of our patients, workforce and the communities we serve."

Santa Clara County will be implementing a vaccine mandate for all its 22,000 employees, which includes Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

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In a statement, the medical center said the vast majority of staff are already fully vaccinated.

Adding, "The specific policy and timeline is under development. The County policy already requires weekly testing for all employees (including at SCVMC) who are not fully vaccinated."

John Muir Health says it is not currently mandating the vaccine, but says it is evaluating that option:
"John Muir Health is not mandating the vaccine at this time, but we are continuing to evaluate that option and the latest public health recommendations. More than 80% of our workforce has been vaccinated and we have instituted Contra Costa County's Health Order to conduct weekly testing of our unvaccinated employees."
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