Is COVID Vaccine Mandatory in California Amid Delta Variant Threat?

California is the first state to require all state and health care workers and those who work in "high-risk congregate settings" to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or be tested for the virus at least once a week, the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom said on July 26.

The governor encouraged "all local governments and businesses to do the same."

The state's latest measures were announced amid the ongoing threat of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India. The Delta variant accounts for at least 83 percent of recent COVID-19 cases in the country.

Following Newsom's announcement, several private businesses, as well as the local governments in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach and San Diego County, announced similar measures for their employees, including mandatory vaccination in select offices and required weekly testing.

Is COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory For Residents?

No. The California state government website says: "Neither the state or federal government requires you to get vaccinated. We hope Californians will opt for vaccination once they see how safe and effective it is."

State and Health Workers

The new COVID-19 vaccine verification policy for state workers has been in place since August 2. The testing requirement will be phased in over the next few weeks, the governor's office said on July 26.

Californians working in health care settings are required to verify they have been fully vaccinated or be tested regularly. Unvaccinated workers are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and be tested at least once a week. "This requirement also applies to high-risk congregate settings like adult and senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails," according to the governor's office.

"The new policy for health care workers and congregate facilities will take effect on August 9, and health care facilities will have until August 23 to come into full compliance," Newsom's office said.

Newsweek has contacted the governor's office and the California Department of Public Health for comment.

Schools

In July, the University of California announced it will require all students, faculty and others to get vaccinated before the start of the fall semester. It is the country's largest public university system to mandate the vaccines despite them not being fully approved by the federal government, the Los Angeles Times reported on July 15.

California State University, the country's largest four-year public university system, announced that it is also requiring COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff.

The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 60 higher education institutions in California have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including the University of Southern California (USC), Caltech, Stanford, Occidental, Chapman, Pepperdine and the Claremont Colleges, according to data compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

More than 600 U.S. colleges and universities have imposed some type of COVID-19 vaccine mandate ahead of the upcoming fall term, The Associated Press reported.

Newsweek has contacted the California Department of Education for comment.

Businesses

Several major companies whose headquarters are based in California have announced vaccine mandates, including at Google.

COVID-19 vaccination would be required for workers in Google's U.S. office locations "in the coming weeks" and to other regions 'in the coming months," said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, according to a July 30 statement from the California governor's office.

Facebook's VP of People, Lori Goler, said in a statement: "As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our U.S. campuses to be vaccinated.

"How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations," Goler added, according to the governor's office.

Netflix requires mandatory vaccination for its U.S. productions. The move came after studios and Hollywood unions reached an agreement earlier in July that allows producers to mandate vaccines for those who potentially pose the highest risk of spreading and contracting the virus on set. This includes actors and crew members who work most closely with them, Netflix said.

"More major studios are expected to follow in the coming weeks as they work out the challenging logistics of overhauling their approaches to pandemic safety on set," the streaming service said, according to the governor's office.

On July 29, ride-sharing app Uber announced all of its U.S. employees would need to be vaccinated before returning to the office, according to a company spokesperson.

Prisons

On Wednesday, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso, who manages medical care inside California's prisons, called for mandatory vaccinations for all guards and staff at prisons, The Sacramento Bee reported.

"The risk now is grave," Kelso wrote in a report highlighting the conditions inside California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities. "We cannot afford to be lulled by the decline in infections in CDCR, which mirrored the fall in rates in the larger community."

In a statement Wednesday, the CDCR said it is reviewing Kelso's recommendation and "evaluating next steps."

The CDCR stated: "From the onset of the pandemic, the department has been proactive and responsive in implementing mitigation efforts, including masking at all times, regular testing and vaccines, which continue currently at all of our institutions.

"Our department is embracing and complying with the Governor's proof of vaccination and testing requirements as related to state workers, and we have and will continue to work with public health and health care to ensure we are doing everything we can for the health and safety of our staff, population and communities," the CDCR said.

Newsweek has contacted the CDCR for further comment.

A COVID vaccine sign in LA.
A sign displaying the types of COVID-19 vaccines available at a Walgreens mobile bus clinic in Los Angeles, California on June 25. Mario Tama/Getty Images