Sacramento, CA–Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday announced new booster requirements and testing measures to better protect all Californians as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant COVID-19 strain in the nation.
The COVID-19 booster requirement for health care workers will mitigate potential staffing shortages while helping to safeguard the state’s hospital capacity and protect the health and safety of Californians. Combined with the new federal policies announced Tuesday, these actions will help ensure everyone in California has access to testing throughout the holiday season and that K-12 public school students can return to school safely.
“As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country and circulates in all regions of the state, we’re taking immediate, proactive steps to protect Californians with boosters and expanded access to testing,” said Governor Newsom. “The state is also redoubling our efforts to keep kids safe and keep schools open. We will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by making at-home testing kits available to every K-12 public school student as they head back to the classroom from winter break.”
By February 1, 2022, health care workers and all employees in high-risk congregate settings, including nursing homes, will be required to get their booster. In the interim, all health care staff that have not received their booster must test for COVID-19 twice weekly until they are up to date on their vaccines.
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, the state is also increasing the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests across California so K-12 public-school students can be tested as they return to school from winter break. In early December, the California Department of Public Health distributed approximately 2 million tests to schools for this purpose. CDPH will expand those efforts by providing 1-2 rapid tests for every student. Public health will work with local education and health partners to distribute those test kits as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“As we fight Omicron, there is nothing more important for our kids than keeping schools safely open — that means deploying rapid tests,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “Over the holiday break, CDE will be working closely with the Governor and California’s public health and emergency management personnel to get testing supplies to families, districts, and schools.”
To ensure every Californian has access to testing, the state will also be expanding antigen test availability and expanding hours of operation at state-sponsored OptumServe sites that are already at capacity. Today, 90% of the population lives within a 30-minute driving distance of a site. Over the course of the pandemic, the state has established 6,288 testing sites statewide, comprising 31% of the nation’s testing sites. In support of this effort, since August, the state has purchased over 12 million over-the-counter tests. California Department of Public Health is distributing an additional 6 million tests to community partners serving disproportionately impacted Californians and 4 million to local health jurisdictions.
California has led the nation’s fight against COVID-19, implementing the most robust vaccination and testing programs in the country. To date, California has administered over 64 million vaccination doses and over 116 million tests, with an average turnaround of just 48 hours. In recent months, Newsom implemented a series of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including first-in-the-nation vaccine and masking measures requiring that workers in health care settings be fully vaccinated, announcing plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when fully approved, requiring masking in schools and implementing a standard that all school staff and all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested.
“California’s determination to use every available tool to keep our children safe during this pandemic has allowed us to keep schools open and case rates low — a key to their physical and mental health as well as learning,” said Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, State Board of Education President. “Ensuring boosters and testing in the new year will continue this commitment to keeping our children’s welfare front and center.”
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, Californians are encouraged to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask indoors and get tested if sick.