(KGTV) – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced updated statewide actions to combat a rise in COVID-19 cases, including requiring a vaccine booster shot for all health care workers.
During a news conference at an Alameda County testing clinic, Newsom said California health care workers would have until Feb. 1 to receive a booster shot.
The governor said that "protecting our front-line heroes and employees" was a critical step in beating back the COVID-19 surge being fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
"That's why we led as the first state in the nation to require all health care workers to be vaccinated," Newsom said. "And we're really proud of those partnerships, our providers, the remarkable support we received from organized labor as well as community clinics, not just the hospitals, that supported that effort. And that led to extraordinarily high vaccination rates for our health care workers.
"It kept staff working, kept the morale high, kept their immunity strong. But we recognize now that just being fully vaccinated is not enough with this new variant," he said. "And we believe it's important to extend this requirement to getting that third dose, to getting boosted."
California health care workers are already required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Newsom issued that mandate in August with a deadline in September, after the fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19 had become the dominant strain of the virus in the state.
Currently, health care workers in California can request a religious or medical exemption for the vaccine.
The governor insisted that the state was still holding its own in the fight against COVID-19 and the omicron variant, but he noted that metrics are trending upward. He said the state's testing-positivity rate is 3.3% this week, up from 2.3% last week.
"That's a big increase in just one week," he said.
One week ago, the state announced 5,400 new COVID infections, but Wednesday, that number is nearly 11,000.
"So almost a doubling of cases in one week, and a positivity rate that increased substantially," he said. "So, you can do the math on this to get a sense of the challenge that we all face here in the state, country and around the rest of the world."
Newsom said the state will release figures Thursday showing that more than half of all sequenced infections in the state are now the omicron variant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this week that roughly 73% of all new infections in the country are now believed to be omicron.
The governor said there were no immediate plans to extend the booster requirement to other sectors, such as state employees, adding, "Hopefully we won't have to consider that if all of our other interventions are successful."
In addition to the booster mandate for health care workers, Newsom announced an expanded effort to test California’s public school students.
State officials stated: “To keep California’s kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, California will provide 1-2 rapid tests for every K-12 public school student as kids head back to school from winter break.”
Also, officials said hours at state-operated COVID-19 testing facilities are being expanded.
City News Service contributed to this report