California · COVID-19 · Education

Newsom mandates vaccines or testing for state’s teachers

Shortly after enacting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has extended the requirement for all teachers as the new school year resumes. 

Newsom made the announcement Wednesday, making California the first state in the nation to have the requirement for all teachers and school staff. 

Just like the mandate for state employees, if teachers forego vaccination, they will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 

“We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keep schools open,” Newsom said. “And to address the No. 1 anxiety that parents like myself have – I have four young children – and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep their kids healthy.” 

The policy will first take effect on Aug. 12, and schools will be required to be fully compliant by Oct. 15. 

California is providing resources for free testing through the “CA K-12 schools testing programs.” Schools will also have access from the state’s emergency relief funds and grants to fund testing. 

Newsom’s mandate comes as the Delta variant has led to an increase in hospitalizations throughout the state, bringing the total up to over 6,500 patients, a number that was last reached in February. 

“It’s science-based,” Newsom said. “It’s based upon argument, evidence. “It’s based upon data, and it’s based upon the vaccine challenge that we all face now in this state and our nation, for that matter around the world of trying to address this latest mutation, the Delta mutation, in our state.” 

Along with the vaccine mandates, Wednesday’s announcement also follows the state’s requirement that all students – with an exemption for medical reasons – must wear a face mask in the classroom. 

“We think this will do exactly what it is intended to do, and that’s to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Newsom said. “That’s what happened at the state level. That’s what happened in terms of the inspiration for the private sector to follow suit.” 

Newsom’s mandate was met with praise by the California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd. 

“We know from our surveys that nearly 90 percent of educators have already been vaccinated. Yet in the past few weeks, we have seen a rising spread of the Delta variant, especially among children, just as the new school year is starting,” Boyd said in a statement. 

“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures. Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.