Government leaders to their workers: Get vaccinated or get tested

“We have reached the limits of a purely voluntary system,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “It’s time for more mandates, different kinds, different places.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first federal agency to embrace such a policy. The White House has been wary of vaccine requirements, preferring instead to urge local governments and private businesses to set their own rules around vaccinations.

“Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement Monday. “With this mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”

Roughly 115,000 employees will fall under the VA’s mandate, according to the New York Times, which first reported the decision. It will give the workers eight weeks to get vaccinated.

California’s roughly 246,000 state workers will be asked starting next month to show proof of vaccination or be tested weekly for the virus. The rule does not apply to public schoolteachers, who are local district employees.

The state’s new requirement will also apply to about 2.2 million health care workers in public and private settings. Those in higher-risk health care facilities who remain unvaccinated will have to undergo testing twice a week and will be advised to wear N95 masks.

“Too many people have chosen to live with this virus,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Monday in Oakland. “We’re at a point in the epidemic, this pandemic, where choice, individual choice not to get vaccinated, is now impacting the rest of us in profound and devastating and deadly ways.”

California, as well as much of the rest of the country, is on the brink of a fourth surge driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. The statewide case rate is five times higher than it was on May 15, and the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations continue to disproportionately affect those who are unvaccinated.

Newsom said that about 75 percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the state last week saw a 16 percent increase in new vaccinations compared to the previous week.

Local health officials last week in San Francisco and two other Bay Area counties recommended employers require proof of vaccination. San Francisco and Pasadena already announced their city workers will be required to get vaccinated once federal regulators fully approve the vaccine.


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