California became the first state in the US on Wednesday to require all teachers and other school staff to be completely vaccinated against COVID-19 or to be tested on a regular basis.
The state’s Department of Public Health issued the order requiring all school staff to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 15. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom.”
California’s announcement comes as other states, including Florida and Texas, grapple with legal challenges to governors banning schools from even requiring masks in classrooms.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked an appeals court to overturn an order mandating masks in schools and businesses by Dallas County, stating it defies the executive order issued by the governor and his power to decide how the state responds to emergencies including the pandemic.
“Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” Abbott said. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility — not government mandates. The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the federal government could provide funds to pay salaries of school officials after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to cut or withhold the pay of education leaders who require masks.
Nationwide, more than 195 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 166.86 million people — just over half of the U.S. population — are fully vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, more than 46 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccination have been administered in California, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state has one of the highest per capita dose rates in the country at 116,429 doses administered per 100,000 people.
“There’s no substitute for in-person instruction, and California will continue to lead the nation in keeping students and staff safe while ensuring fully open classrooms,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “Today’s order will help the state’s continued efforts to increase vaccinations, similar to the orders encouraging state and healthcare workers and businesses to get vaccinated.”
The California Teachers Association, one of the largest unions for educators in the state, welcomed the announcement. The organization said nearly 90% of educators are already vaccinated.
“Educators want to be in classrooms with their students, and the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone who is medically eligible to be vaccinated, with robust testing and multi-tiered safety measures,” the CTA said. “Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious Delta variant.”