These Silicon Valley agencies require workers to have COVID shots
An aerial view of downtown San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

The country is entering its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and has moved from lockdowns and closures to vaccine mandates.

Here’s a look at which Silicon Valley agencies have mandated COVID shots for their workers.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County was one of the first agencies in the South Bay to mandate vaccines for its roughly 22,000 employees. In July, the county announced that all employees, including the sheriff’s office, firefighters and other social service workers, were required to be fully inoculated—not including the booster—as a condition of employment.

At the end of 2021, the county expanded a Dec. 22 state mandate and updated its policy to require everyone who works in congregate shelters, high-risk spaces and jails to get a booster shot by Jan. 24 to continue working on the front lines.

Unlike the previous mandate, which allowed people to continue their roles if granted a medical/religious exemption from the vaccine, the new health order requires employees transfer to less risky roles if they are not boosted.

Residents are not required to be vaccinated, but are highly encouraged to do so.

Local cities

Cities in Santa Clara County rank in three different categories when it comes to COVID vaccine mandates and testing requirements. Some cities require vaccinations and regularly test those who are granted exemptions; other cities do not require vaccinations, but those who do not show proof are required to test weekly; and some do not have any vaccine or testing requirements.

San Jose appears to be the most stringent in the South Bay. After passing a vaccine mandate for its approximately 7,570 employees in September, the City Council is considering a new mandate that would require employees to be boosted as a condition of employment.

The deadline for up-to-date inoculation is not clear yet, but the council is expected to vote Jan. 11 on the mandate. If passed, it would also apply to those who attend or work at large events at city-owned facilities like the SAP Center.

Morgan Hill, which currently mandates two shots of vaccine and has 87% of employees vaccinated, may also follow suit, City Clerk Michelle Bigelow told San José Spotlight.

“We also strongly encourage our teammates to get their boosters, but do not yet require them,” Bigelow said. “We (will) watch what is happening at the state and county level to see what direction we may need to go.”

Palo Alto and Mountain View also require COVID vaccinations as a condition of employment, but allow for medical and religious exemptions. Currently, Mountain View’s workforce is 92% vaccinated. Palo Alto could not provide its worker vaccination rate.

Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Gilroy and Campbell do not have vaccine mandates for employees, however those who do not provide proof of vaccination are required to test weekly to protect from outbreaks. Currently, full inoculation does not require a booster.

“We’re following the county’s mandates,” Campbell City Manager Brian Loventhal said. “We are mandating weekly testing and have been tracking vaccination rates, both before that mandate and after, and it really boosted our vaccination rates. So it’s been effective.”

Santa Clara was moving forward with establishing vaccination requirements and mandatory testing for unvaccinated city employees, but efforts paused as lawsuits placed a Cal/OSHA stay, city spokesperson Lon Peterson told San José Spotlight. The city does not have any testing or vaccine mandates in place, but in the coming months plans to provide notice to employee groups prior to imposing weekly testing for the unvaccinated.

Cupertino also does not have a vaccine mandate and is not pursuing one, as 88% of its workforce has reported being fully vaccinated, city spokesperson Brian Babcock said.

Los Altos, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Los Altos Hills have no testing or vaccine mandates in place.

Transportation

Both BART and Caltrain require employees to be vaccinated, which leaves VTA out of the loop. It does not require riders or employees to show proof of vaccination, but that may change soon for the workforce.

In the next few weeks, the VTA board will consider implementing a vaccine mandate for its employees.

“Last month, our general manager laid out a plan for multiple initiatives that she intends to pursue, and one of them is a mandatory vaccination policy,” VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross told San José Spotlight. “We’re not considering it for customers.”

VTA has a moderate vaccination rate among staff, with roughly 60% reporting they are inoculated with two shots as of Dec. 27.

“We anticipate a boost in these numbers, either by gaining more accurate vaccination reporting among our employees, or by the imminent mandatory vaccination policy being considered which will make the COVID-19 vaccine a condition of employment,” Hendler Ross said. “Currently, any new hire must be fully vaccinated.”

Education

Among South Bay schools, higher education institutions have implemented vaccine requirements around the same time cities implemented their mandates last fall.

The California State University system requires those on-campus to get two doses, and recently expanded the policy to require the booster shot by Feb. 28 or six months after an individual received the final dose of the original vaccination, whichever is later.

Local community colleges, including Evergreen Valley College and San Jose City College, also have vaccine mandates for everyone on campus, but do not require a booster shot—similar to University of California campuses.

California requires all public school teachers and workers to be vaccinated or to take weekly COVID tests.

A statewide policy will also require young students in public schools to be fully inoculated against COVID once the vaccine receives full FDA approval for those age groups. This means once the vaccine is fully approved for those 12 and older, then students in grades 7-12 will have to get inoculated before the next school term. Once approved for children 5 years and older, the mandate will come into effect for grades K-6.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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