BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Millions of health care workers within the state have been told by Governor Gavin Newsom that they need to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of next month.
California public health officials announced last Thursday that all health care workers in the state would be required to be fully vaccinated or get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine by September 30th. The new order modifies an earlier order by the state that required health care workers to be either vaccinated or provide a negative test once a week.
California requiring health care workers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30
The update also requires that any guests at California hospitals be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours before indoor visits.
The changes come as the Delta variant of the virus leads to increased cases, hospitalizations, and ICU cases in California.
"As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings," said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and state public health officer. "Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic."
The order applies to workers in hospitals, nursing facilities, and most other health care settings. It does allow for medical and religious exemptions.
Those who do not get vaccinated or do not receive a medical or religious exemption could face losing their job.
Now one group of local nurses is fighting back. On Wednesday a small group of nurses gathered outside Memorial Hospital saying they're not anti-vaccine but they do believe that they should be given a choice.
“The hypocrisy is real. Last year they decorated us as 'Hometown Heroes' even when we were down to limited people. We were treating COVID patients for a year and a half without the vaccine. And now they want us to get the vaccine or were out,” said Josh Lee, an x-ray technician at Memorial Hospital.
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23ABC reached out to local hospitals and the local nurses union. Dignity Health Mercy and Memorial Hospitals issued the following statement:
Mercy and Memorial Hospitals is committed to making our communities safer and healthier. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have answered our calling to serve, providing care during challenging times. We appreciate and value meaningful dialogue and strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t already been vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so as quickly as possible. Those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are better protected than those who are not vaccinated.
New visitor policies at health care facilities went into effect on Wednesday. According to a recent public health order issued by the state health department last week, all visitors at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and intermediate care facilities are now required to be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before visiting.
Hospitals will be tasked with keeping track of everyone who comes through their doors.
The order comes as California's COVID-19 positivity rate has been trending upward in recent weeks, and the majority of the people testing positive for the virus are unvaccinated.