Sonoma Co. mandates vaccines for emergency workers ahead of fire season

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Like the rest of the country, Sonoma County is facing a fourth COVID surge. With COVID cases and hospitalizations rising, Sonoma County ordered a vaccine mandate for emergency personnel.

"The news today is not great," said Sonoma County Supervisor, Chris Coursey at a virtual press conference. "This isn't the same opponent that we were fighting in 2020. The Delta variant is highly contagious."

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Sonoma County chief epidemiologist, Kate Pack, showed a graph during the press conference that indicates unvaccinated people are testing positive at four and half times the rate of vaccinated people.

"This is reaching levels that we haven't seen since back in January," she said.

With that, Sonoma County expanded a California health order to include emergency personnel. In four weeks, by September 1st, all fire, law enforcement, emergency medical workers, and staff at disaster shelters must be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

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Kaiser Permanente will now require all employees and physicians to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.



The new mandate though is not just about COVID case numbers. Right now, we are only at the beginning of what could be another very long fire season.

"Keeping the workforce healthy in the city limits is very important to make sure we have our full effective firefighting force available," said Santa Rosa Fire Chief, Scott Westrope.

Chief Westrope says 65-70% of their staff is vaccinated, which is not enough, especially as firefighters go out to large scale fires with camps.

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"We've had 14 personnel at the Dixie Fire for two to three weeks, it's a huge camp, there's a lot of people around, and keeping them healthy in that environment, where it's a lot more people around and a much more congregate setting, is even more important so you don't bring something home to their co-workers, family, or a member of the community."

Santa Rosa Police Sgt Christopher Mahurin says 75-80% of their employees are vaccinated. "We lost someone in our agency to COVID and we don't want that to happen again, nor be responsible for that happening to anyone in our community."

He has a message for those who have not gotten the shot. "We got into this job to save lives and to protect our community and part of protecting our community is making sure that we aren't transmitting a virus that can be very severe."


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