August 5, 2021 US coronavirus news

California has become the first state to require all employees in healthcare settings to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread, the state announced Thursday.

California’s Department of Public Health issued two new health orders Thursday that mandate workers in healthcare settings be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and requires hospitals and nursing homes to verify that visitors are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month the state would require healthcare workers in the state to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, but Thursday’s order went a step further, requiring California’s approximately two million healthcare workers until the end of September to become fully vaccinated and promises paid time off to get immunized.

“By requiring health care workers to be fully vaccinated and visitors to acute care facilities to demonstrate they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19, California is protecting the most vulnerable individuals, while also protecting workers in these settings,” the state’s public health department said in a news release.

The decision comes as the state sees a surge in new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate, with all three metrics reaching their highest levels since February.

“As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” said California Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”

California’s public health department is expected to update guidance for visitors to other long-term care facilities in the near future.