California state government will require their employees to show proof of full vaccination or submit to weekly COVID tests starting Aug. 2, per an announcement on Monday.
The state is the first in the nation to set a standard requiring workers to get fully vaccinated or undergo COVID tests at least once a week. The requirement begins for state workers on Aug. 2. Healthcare workers and workers in jails, homeless shelters, and residential living facilities must comply with the standard by Aug. 9.
Healthcare facilities have until Aug. 23 to start testing workers and verify their vaccination status. The policy requires unvaccinated workers to wear personal protective equipment while on the job.
"We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it's going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant," said Governor Gavin Newsom, in a written statement on Monday. "As the state's largest employer, we are leading by example."
California's case rate rose to 16.2 per 100,000 people as of July 25— over five times what it was June 25, according to the state's reported seven-day case averages. While the death rate did not increase significantly in the past two months, hospitalizations increased by 144% from June 2 through the end of July.
The Delta variant, which is up to 60% more contagious than the alpha strain and "many times more infectious than the original COVID strain," is one of the main reasons for this surge, according to California's Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly.
"We were weeks ahead of meeting President Joe Biden's 70% goal. But we must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals," Ghaly said in a news release.
So far the state administered 44 million vaccines, more than any other in the country, and provided up to 75% of eligible individuals with at least one dose, he said.
More than two dozen states have experienced increases in COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Coronavirus Tracking Center. The states with the highest seven-day average increases in cases also have some of the country's lowest vaccination rates.
Resistance to vaccines led medical organizations to release statements in support of vaccine mandates among healthcare workers over the past week. Many cite the risk unvaccinated healthcare workers bring to vulnerable populations.