Santa Clara County to require COVID shots for public employees
Agricultural workers received COVID-19 vaccines at Monterey Mushrooms in Morgan Hill on Cesar Chavez Day. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Santa Clara County will require its 22,000 employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in an attempt to curb infections driven by unvaccinated individuals.

The vaccine policy and timeline are still under development.

The vast majority of county employees across all departments are fully vaccinated, a county spokesperson told San José Spotlight. The spokesperson did not provide specific vaccination numbers for county workers.

“COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since the relaxing of community and workplace transmission protections in mid-June, abetted by the highly contagious Delta variant,” the spokesperson said in an email. “As a result, the county has taken steps, including recommending the wearing of face coverings in indoor public areas for everyone, and urging employers to consider implementing workplace COVID-19 vaccine requirements for all employees.”

Santa Clara County policy already requires weekly testing for employees who are not fully vaccinated.

At the beginning of the pandemic’s winter surge, the county imposed travel restrictions, requiring people returning to Santa Clara County from areas more than 150 miles away to quarantine for 14 days. County officials did not respond to inquiries about if another travel ban will be implemented.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that it recommends fully vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors again. It also recommends students wear masks when they return to school in the fall.

That’s because the risk for infection “in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as there is continued community transmission of the virus,” the CDC said.

California officials announced on Monday that all health care workers in the state must receive their COVID-19 vaccines by Aug. 23. Those not in compliance will be subject to weekly testing and will be required to wear masks at all times in the workplace.

State employees and workers in congregate settings such as jails, shelters and adult nursing facilities will also have to show proof of vaccination starting next month or be subject to the same restrictions.

About 77.5% of all Santa Clara County residents, more than 1.3 million people, ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated. About 83.7% are inoculated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this month, the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara, as well as Santa Clara County, said there was no impending vaccine mandate for public employees. That was before the recommendation from Bay Area health officers that all employers require their workers to be vaccinated.

San Jose spokesperson Carolina Camarena told San José Spotlight that the city is “monitoring the current situation with the spike of Delta variant cases, and discussing the county recommendations.”

“We will look to the county health officials for further guidance,” she said.

Santa Clara spokesperson Maria Le said the city is closely monitoring the county’s actions and “aligning to their practices for the safe delivery of public services.”

“All options are on the table, as Santa Clara continues to support a workplace where city staff and our community can safely provide and receive services,” she said.

At this time, Le said, approximately two thirds of the city’s 1,462 employees are vaccinated.

After months of nationwide concern about police and public safety officer vaccination rates lagging behind—despite being some of the first in line to get access to the COVID vaccines—local agencies still haven’t caught up to the rest of the region.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office reports that 71% of its 1,697 employees are vaccinated. San Jose reports 651 sworn police officers are fully vaccinated, about 56% of officers. This is out of 891 survey respondents and 1,161 cops in the department.

Sheriff’s deputies are county employees and will be subject to the county vaccine requirement. San Jose Police Department employees would be subject to any requirement the city implements, if officials choose to do so.

The Delta variant is now the predominant COVID-19 strain in California and across the United States. As of this month, 80% of new cases in the state are a result of the Delta variant.

“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” according to the CDC’s website. “When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.”

To find drop-in vaccine sites, book an appointment, request a mobile vaccination at home and find vaccine safety information, visit www.sccfreevax.org.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.