California Requires Teachers to Be Vaccinated or Tested

The move comes as such mandates gain momentum both among public and private employers as cases across the United States have jumped amid the spread of the Delta variant,

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Teachers in California must have proof of vaccination or face regular testing, the governor says.

Chris Johnson, a kindergarten teacher in San Francisco, setting up his public-school classroom for in-person instruction in April.
Chris Johnson, a kindergarten teacher in San Francisco, setting up his public-school classroom for in-person instruction in April.Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Aug. 11, 2021Updated 2:36 p.m. ET

Schoolteachers and school staff in California must have proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or else face weekly testing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, making the state the first in the nation to make the move.

The move comes as such mandates gain momentum both among public and private employers as cases across the United States have jumped amid the spread of the Delta variant. Several localities in California have renewed mask restrictions, including in Los Angeles County.

Many large companies, including Google, Disney, Tyson Foods and Microsoft, have announced some vaccination requirements for workers who would be returning to offices and plants.

While initially California officials emphasized they were merely encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, the governor announced late last month that the state would require health care workers and state government employees to be inoculated or be tested at least weekly.

On Thursday, state health officials made the requirement even more stringent for many, largely removing the testing option for more than two million health care workers in the state.

But it wasn’t clear then whether California would extend a mandate to hundreds of thousands of educators, who are in the midst of a fraught back-to-school season after roughly a year of remote instruction.

Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten, the head of the powerful American Federation of Teachers, expressed her strongest support to date for mandatory vaccination of educators against Covid, saying on Sunday that she would urge her union’s leadership to reconsider its position against vaccine mandates.

“It’s not a new thing to have immunizations in schools,” Ms. Weingarten said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “And I think that on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates.”

Earlier this week, Oakland Unified School District officials announced that all teachers and staff members — including contractors and volunteers — must be vaccinated or be tested weekly in order to be on campus.

Speaking at Wednesday’s news conference in front of a colorful mural, Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, the district’s superintendent, said the vaccines were critical “to make sure our schools and our communities are safe.”

For Mr. Newsom, getting children safely back into classrooms is a task with particularly high stakes. Next month, the state’s voters will be asked whether they want to recall the governor from office, and frustration over prolonged school closures among parents has been a significant driver of support for his ouster.

Schools were closed longer in California than in other states in large part because of its brutal winter surge, but also because of protracted negotiations with the state’s large, powerful teachers unions, who demanded extensive safety precautions, including priority access to vaccine doses.

Becky Zoglman, a spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, said that surveys have shown that about 90 percent of the union’s 310,000 members have already been inoculated.

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