OAKLAND, Calif. — California has become the first state to require vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19.
Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement Wednesday August 11th, at a school in Oakland. The order from the California Department of Public Health gives schools until Oct. 15 to comply. The state already has mandated that everyone wear masks indoors as students return to class.
Dr. Kyla Johnson Trammell, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, welcomed the change.
“We prioritized both physical safety and the socioemotional safety of our community,” Johnson Trammell explained. “And we felt that this was an important step in that direction, in tandem with the other measures that we are taking.”
The new mandate comes in contrast to decisions made by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who opposed vaccine mandates, arguing they violate personal freedom. This week, he went further, threatening to stop paying salaries of educators who require students to wear masks.
Keith Brown, Oakland Education Association president, noted schools have spent hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading air filtration systems, adding ventilation, stocking up on personal protective equipment and implementing safety protocols.
“Now we have a very important layer of protection for our students in place,” Brown stated. “I encourage all who can to get vaccinated.”
Newsom emphasized the new rule is meant to stem the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, and ensure California will not have to return to distance learning.