California state and health care employees will soon be required to show proof of vaccination or be regularly tested as part of a new vaccine-verification program announced by state officials Monday, as Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital announced six additional COVID-19 patients were admitted over the weekend.
The move comes as COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates continue to increase across the state, including locally in Los Angeles County, where close to or more than 2,000 cases have been reported per day for the last five days, as the Delta variant makes up more than 80% of infections statewide.
On Monday, Henry Mayo officials announced 22 patients were in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, an increase of six from Friday and again marking the highest number of COVID-19 patients the hospital has seen in the last few months.
“As we have stated before, the most effective way to prevent a stay in the hospital for COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” hospital spokesman Patrick Moody said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Henry Mayo officials said they had seen 151 COVID-19 patients die and 1,282 be discharged.
State officials say the decision comes as a way to ensure that the state can safely remain open, with state employees, as well as workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings, such as senior living facilities, homeless shelters and jails, to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested regularly, with testing protocols set to be implemented over the course of several weeks.
“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a prepared statement. “As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example … and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same. Vaccines are safe – they protect our family, those who truly can’t get vaccinated, our children and our economy. Vaccines are the way we end this pandemic.”
State employees who are unvaccinated, or decline to provide proof of vaccination, are set to be tested at least once a week, while hospital workers who are unvaccinated are required to participate in twice-a-week COVID-19 testing, with the requirements applying to both public and private health care settings, according to the California Department of Human Resources.
While the new guidance is not a mandate, it removes the “honor system” in which some workers were able to self-attest to their vaccination status.
The latest COVID-19 case rate among unvaccinated residents is estimated to be above 14 cases per 100,000, roughly seven times the vaccinated case rate, which is around two cases per 100,000, according to the Health and Human Services Agency.
Approximately 75% of the eligible state population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state data.
The guidance is set to go into effect for state workers Monday, Aug. 2, and for health care workers on Aug. 9, with the state expecting full compliance by Aug. 23.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials also released the following updated COVID-19 statistics Monday:
Countywide COVID-19 cases reported in the past 24 hours: 1,966
Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 1,285,771
New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 4
Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 24,631
Hospitalizations countywide: 745
COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 72, 53 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita
Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 29,435
Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of July 25: 307
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the city of Santa Clarita as of July 18: 70.8%
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the SCV as of July 18: 67.2%