Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference for a pop-up vaccine site in City Heights. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

With COVID-19 surging once again, California took a big step this week in requiring certain workers to get vaccinated.

“Employees of hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical facilities have until Sept. 30 to get at least one dose of the vaccination, under the new order issued by Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California’s public health officer,” CalMatters reports.

That tightened up existing rules that stipulated workers must either be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

After lots of stagnation, California’s vaccine rates have ticked upward recently, which the Los Angeles Times attributes in part to more public and private employers imposing mandates on workers, as well as businesses asking customers for proof of vaccination in order to obtain services.

My colleague Andrew Keatts broke the news last weekend that the city of San Diego’s mandate for workers will go further than other jurisdictions, including the county, which allow workers to avoid getting vaccinated and choose weekly testing instead. City of San Diego workers won’t have that opt-out option. Employees must be fully vaccinated within 10 weeks of the FDA offering final approval to at least one COVID-19 vaccine, or risk termination.

The next big mandate test will be whether school districts require educators to be vaccinated. The evidence so far suggests mandates are unlikely: San Francisco Unified and Sweetwater Union High School districts have already announced teachers won’t be required to obtain a vaccine.

Early this year, San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera lobbied the state Senate for teachers to have priority access to vaccines.

“We need to get our educators vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Barrera said at the hearing.

At the time, Kisha Borden, president of the 6,500-member San Diego Education Association, told Voice of San Diego a mandate discussion was moot because there weren’t enough vaccines to go around.

“We have not had any discussions with the District around mandating vaccines as it would be pointless given that the District would be unable to obtain the supply necessary to vaccinate all staff,” she said.

Now, the vaccines are easily accessible. Yet Borden told KPBS in December the union would negotiate to keep all teachers employed even if they decline the vaccine.

A San Diego-Centric Recall Debate

San Diego was on everyone’s minds as Republican candidates hoping to oust and replace Gov. Gavin Newsom debated this week.

Many of the candidates took aim at former Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s record, and Faulconer touted that record as evidence that voters should choose him to lead the state.

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt parsed their claims on Faulconer’s record on homelessness in particular, and explained what they got right and wrong.

And Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Newsom supporter, made an unlikely cameo in the debate when former Rep. Doug Ose called her “the most powerful politician in the legislative branch at the Capitol” (sound familiar?) and said that even though “everybody on the Democratic side is terrified of her,” he wasn’t afraid to call her and figure out ways they could work together.

“Nothing like a straight talking, unapologetically progressive Latina to scare some Republicans,” Gonzalez responded on Twitter.

The Republicans also returned to their favorite pre-pandemic punching bag, AB 5, the law written by Gonzalez that limits when employers can claim employees as independent contractors – a reminder that the recall effort is a broader effort to take over the governor’s spot that they couldn’t win in a general election, and not just a specific response to how Newsom has handled the pandemic.

Golden State News

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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