All staff members at public and private K-12 schools will be required to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or be tested at least weekly for the virus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.
The news comes as many Santa Barbara County school districts are heading back to the classroom for the next school year.
The order applies to public and private schools serving students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade. It does not apply to home schools, child care or higher education.
The public health officer order goes into effect Thursday, but districts have until Oct. 15 to come into compliance, according to Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health.
School workers who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must be tested at least once a week with a FDA-approved PCR test or antigen testing, according to the CDPH.
“Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air. Most current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated adults,” the order says.
“Almost all K-6th graders are unvaccinated and will not be eligible for vaccines at the outset of the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, although some 7-12th grade students will be fully vaccinated by the start of the school year, many will not. As of Aug. 10, less than 41% of Californians 12 to 17 years old were fully vaccinated,” the order says.
“California is committed to safe, full, in-person learning for all in K-12 schools, following strong public health science. For example, California has implemented a universal masking requirement in all K-12 schools, as well as recommendations around testing strategies for K-12 schools, to support the successful return to full in-person instruction at the outset of the school year, as well as minimizing missed school days.
“Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective means of preventing infection with the COVID-19 virus, and subsequent transmission and outbreaks. Current CDPH K-12 guidance strongly recommends vaccination for all eligible individuals, thereby reducing COVID-19 rates throughout the community, including in schools, and creating a wrap-around safety layer for unvaccinated students.
“This order, consistent with this recommendation, requires verification of vaccination status among eligible K-12 school workers, and establishes diagnostic screening testing of unvaccinated workers to minimize the risk that they will transmit while on K-12 school campuses, where a majority of students are not vaccinated and younger students are not yet eligible for vaccines.”
�� In order to best protect students and staff as #CA starts the school year in-person, CDPH issued a new public health order requiring all school staff (K-12) to either show proof of vaccination or be tested at least once per week. For more info: https://t.co/tdlcaGTIN4 pic.twitter.com/pMZTNbeSeG
— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) August 11, 2021
Vaccines protect us from COVID & its worst symptoms.
Families deserve to know that the adults at school are doing all they can to keep students safe.
Today, CA becomes the first state to make that reality – all school staff must verify vaccination status or be tested weekly. pic.twitter.com/LxgJiIh7Z4
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) August 11, 2021
California and Santa Barbara County have been seeing an increase in the number of first doses administered recently, as more people decide to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“As of last week, California administered 335,009 new first doses, a 24% increase compared to the previous two weeks. This is a 62%increase compared to the week of July 5 to July 11. Today’s policy will help keep staff and students safe while encouraging additional vaccinations,” Newsom’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
CDPH requires masking indoors at schools for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
Some Santa Barbara County Schools Already Adopted Vaccine Verification Requirements
Local colleges and universities have approved a vaccination verification requirement for employees and students.
UC Santa Barbara requires full vaccination for employees and students by Sept. 9, two weeks before the start of classes, and has released a schedule to help people meet that deadline.
Santa Barbara City College, which expects to hold most of its fall classes online, will also have a vaccination requirement for students and staff members.
Allan Hancock College’s board passed a similar policy on Tuesday night.
Westmont College is restarting on-campus living and learning, and is requiring students to submit proof of vaccination status or be tested regularly, according to Jason Tavarez, the director of institutional resilience.
Fully vaccinated students will not have to participate in entry testing or screening testing, he said in a video on the college website.
K-12 school districts are mostly returning to in-person classes, but are required by the state to offer an online independent-study option for students.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District recently passed a vaccine verification or testing requirement for employees, and also plans to have regular testing for students.
Here is information on How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine Provider in Santa Barbara County.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.