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Bay Area counties urge employers to require vaccinations

Santa Clara, Contra Costa and San Francisco county health officials Thursday urged employers to require their workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible as the Bay Area sees a surge in COVID-19, chiefly among those who’ve not been inoculated.

County health officials said California’s relaxing of community and workplace transmission protections since mid-June and the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus have led to significantly higher case rates and a higher risk of transmission at businesses and workplaces as a result.

“Workers who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 pose a substantial health and financial risk to the workplace,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer. “Most importantly, workplace exposures have led to serious illnesses and deaths.”

The health officers said employers should require medical-grade face masks and frequent COVID-19 testing for employees that aren’t vaccinated. They said they were hopeful a recommendation would be enough to get employers to require vaccinations.

“We have seen recommendations be effective in the past,” said Dr. George Han, Santa Clara County’s deputy health officer, adding that county officials were spurred by hearing from some employers that a recommendation would be helpful. “Could there be further actions in the future? Of course. We’re not saying anything’s off the table. But this is what we’re recommending today.”

Kim McCarl, a Contra Costa County communications officer, said that although only three of the Bay Area’s nine county health officials are making the recommendation now, “we anticipate we’ll see more coming in the coming days.”

San Mateo County on Thursday announced it will require all county workers and visitors to county facilities to wear masks starting Monday to help tamp down rising cases.

The state has required staff at nursing homes to be vaccinated, and Contra Costa County and San Francisco have extended that to other high-risk settings including hospitals and correctional facilities. San Francisco also has announced it will require all city employees to be vaccinated once the vaccines now under emergency use authorization in the U.S. are fully approved.

The health officers said counties have resources available for employers concerned about legal fights with their workers and that courts decisions have favored such mandates.

Check back for updates on this developing story.


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