- California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday the state will require its more than 800,000 teachers and school employees in public and private schools to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or be tested weekly, The Associated Press reports. The state is the first in the nation to issue such a mandate amid a spike in new cases due to the delta variant.
School systems like the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Long Beach districts had already issued vaccine mandates at the local level, and the move is also backed by the state’s two largest teacher unions — the California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers — which noted close to 90% of teachers are already vaccinated based on polls.
- Newsom previously issued a mandate requiring both students and teachers to wear masks in schools.
While California is the first state so far to mandate vaccines for school employees, New York City, home to the nation's largest public school system, has also mandated COVID-19 shots or weekly testing for all municipal workers, including teachers and school staff, in recent weeks.
These decisions have come in the wake of shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amid a renewed surge in cases due to the delta variant of COVID-19. In late July, the agency recommended universal masking for all people ages 2 and older in school buildings. Last week, it issued guidance suggesting unvaccinated students and staff who've been exposed to COVID-19 should undergo quarantines. The moves also come alongside a more urgent push for those eligible to receive vaccinations to do so.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, expressed support for vaccine mandates for teachers in an MSNBC interview Tuesday, citing the current lack of a vaccine for children under 12. He expects more vaccine mandates when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives the COVID-19 vaccines full approval. Fauci also urged the continued use of masks to mitigate the virus' spread.
Though more children are contracting the virus, American Academy of Pediatrics data shows they still make up just a small percentage of those who experience the virus' worst effects and represent between 0.26% and 0% of all COVID-19 deaths in 43 states and territories that track that data, NPR reports.
Meanwhile, some conservative states have maintained bans on vaccine and mask mandates. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on such mandates has set up a battle between the state and local districts. For example, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings moved to implement a vaccine mandate for nonunion county employees despite the governor’s orders. Similar battles are brewing in Texas, with the Austin and Dallas school districts requiring masks.
As for K-12 parents, 60% support mask mandates for unvaccinated teachers and staff, and 57% believe unvaccinated students should have to wear them, according to a Gallup survey taken in mid-July. When it comes to vaccines, however, less than half of parents responded that they think high school students (47%) or middle school students (43%) should be required to get the shots.
Parents’ support for mask mandates also seemed to vary depending on whether their child has been vaccinated. A large portion of parents whose children have been vaccinated support mask requirements for children who haven’t been vaccinated. Parent respondents with unvaccinated children seemed mostly opposed to both vaccine and mask mandates.