California drops COVID-19 requirement for state employees

The state's HR department is following the CDC's lead

California drops COVID-19 requirement for state employees

Most unvaccinated state employees are no longer required to take weekly COVID-19 tests after Sept. 16, according to the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR).

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently removed a recommendation to screen for the coronavirus in general community settings, the California Department of Public Health amended its guidance. Thus, after more than a year of mandatory weekly testing, the state government has dropped the requirement.

However, unvaccinated employees in “high-risk and/or acute health care and long-term care settings” must still be tested weekly, said CalHR Director Eraina Ortega in a memo this week, The Sacramento Bee reported. Any department may still be required to provide free testing during paid work time to employees with workplace exposures, Ortega said.

Read more: L.A. County scraps plans for indoor mask mandate

About 22% of state employees remain unvaccinated, according to Camille Travis, deputy director of communications at CalHR. State departments have reported administering more than 1.8 million tests, with about 30,000 positives, since testing began in July 2021, Travis said.

In February, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state was officially transitioning from the pandemic to the “endemic” phase. In order to adjust to the “new normal” of living with the virus, the administration has announced a variety of initiatives fueled by billions in new spending. “While we can’t predict the future, we can better prepare for it,” Newsom said.

The administration’s strategy for combatting COVID-19: SMARTER. The acronym stands for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx, a reference to improving treatments for the coronavirus and its variants.

As part of the plan, if a higher level of the virus is detected, health officials will determine if it’s a new variant. If it is, state and federal officials will try to determine if it responds to existing treatments and immunities from vaccines or prior infections within 30 days.

There was speculation over the summer that Los Angeles County would reinstate its indoor mask mandate due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, but the LA County Department of Public Health announced there were no plans to do so. However, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Barbara Ferrer has strongly recommended people wear masks indoors in crowded settings.

Meanwhile, officials in the cities of Pasadena, Long Beach and Beverly Hills had already announced they wouldn’t be enforcing such a mandate.

“Despite rising cases, hospitalizations among Long Beach residents remain stable, area hospitals have adequate capacity and fatalities remain low,” the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department said. “Therefore, regarding masking, the City of Long Beach will continue to align with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which strongly urges, but does not require, masking in most circumstances.”

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