covid vaccine san diego
A health care worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Sharp Healthcare vaccination site in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The two largest local governments in San Diego are preparing to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or face regular required testing.

Officials for both San Diego County and the city of San Diego confirmed to Voice of San Diego that mandates are in the works, and will be announced soon.

“Vaccination is the best method for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the path to fully reopening the economy,” Tim McClain, a county spokesman, wrote in a Thursday email. “The county will begin requiring its employees to verify vaccination or undergo regular testing. Details are being worked out but we expect to implement a verification program by mid-August.”

Nick Serrano, a spokesman for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said city officials were negotiating a mandate with the six unions that represent city employees, after VOSD asked whether a city employee vaccine mandate was forthcoming. The state of California imposed such a requirement for its employees this week, as did other cities like Long Beach and Los Angeles.

“The city is currently in discussions with its recognized employee organizations about all of the above and potentially going further,” Serrano wrote, of mandating vaccinations or regular testing requirements.

He did not respond to a follow-up question on what “going further” could entail. Mike Zucchet, leader of the city’s municipal employee association, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The city of Chula Vista, the next largest city in San Diego County, is not ready to commit to a mandate, but said it was looking into it.

“At this time we are recommending all employees and visitors  wear masks,” said Anne Steinberger, a spokeswoman for the city. “We continue to encourage employees to receive the vaccine and we are tracking the vaccination progress of our employee population. We offer weekly onsite vaccination opportunities for our employees and are exploring options for increased enforcement of vaccination and/or testing policies.”

San Diego County employed roughly 16,000 people as of its most recent annual financial report. The city of San Diego employed roughly 11,000 people as of the same period.

San Diego County as a whole is outpacing the state of California in vaccinations. Statewide, 75 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine; in San Diego County that number is 81 percent. Seventy percent of the county’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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