After months of reluctance, Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to mandate on Wednesday that all California teachers working on campuses be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested regularly.
This is the first such statewide mandate for teachers in the country. Until now, Newsom stopped short of such a requirement: He spent the past several months voicing confidence in school safety protocols that were based on increased ventilation and masking, while urging all school employees to be vaccinated.
“We can take these masks off once and for all,” he said at a press conference on Friday. “That way we can keep our kids back in-person without any stress or anxiety for the rest of the year.”
Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Meanwhile, districts across the state formed a patchwork of various vaccination rules for school employees. San Jose Unified, San Francisco Unified, San Diego Unified and others were already requiring teachers to either be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Other districts throughout California were requiring neither.
Both the University of California and California State University systems have issued vaccine mandates for students. The UC will also require faculty to be vaccinated.
Before the forthcoming mandate, California teacher vaccines and testing vaccine requirements were negotiated between teachers unions and local school districts. One legal expert told CalMatters that because the vaccines were not yet fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a unilateral mandate from either the state or local districts could be vulnerable to legal challenges.
In the past two weeks, the state also issued vaccination or regular testing mandates for state employees and health care workers. On Sunday, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second largest teachers union, added to this momentum by calling for vaccine requirements for educators.
“I’m going to upset some people on this, but I think we should [require teacher vaccinations],” Fauci said Tuesday morning in an interview on MSNBC. “We’ve had 615,000-plus deaths, and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”
CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.