Calif. COs union on board with COVID vaccine rules for state workers

State workers must show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing and continue wearing masks


By Andrew Sheeler
The Sacramento Bee
        
SACRAMENTO — Several California public sector unions are voicing support for Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order requiring state workers to show of vaccination against COVID-19 or accept regular testing for the virus.

Newsom on Monday announced the policy, which also applies to private sector health care workers. Employees who decline to show proof of vaccination must continue wearing masks at work in addition to submitted to coronavirus tests.

Newsom said the decision for state workers was well within his authority based on agreements negotiated by public sector unions.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the vaccination policy on Monday.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced the vaccination policy on Monday. (AP Photo)

"You look through the bargaining units, you look through the (memorandums of understanding), you look at the language, and there's processes and protocols that are well-established, well in place. This is a requirement to either get vaccinated or to get tested once or two days a week," Newsom said.

The California Department of Human Resources in a letter to employees said the order is a response to a rising number of delta variant cases of COVID-19 in the state.

"As of last week, the statewide case rate doubled from a low in May of 1.9 cases/100,000/day to at least 9.5/100,000/day. Our testing positivity was at a low of 0.7% in June, now it has risen to 5.2%. Our hospitalizations went from a low in June of under 900, and have now increased by almost 75%.The vast majority of new cases involve unvaccinated individuals, with a 600% higher case rate among the unvaccinated compared with those who are vaccinated," according to the CalHR memo.

The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which represents peace officers across the state, responded to the order by sending a message to members reiterating the state requirements and pledging to follow up on outstanding questions.

"CSLEA is in the process of confirming that testing will be done at no cost to the employee and on State time and how employees will be compensated for self-quarantine if mandated to do so," the union said in a statement.

The CSLEA also responded to members who asked whether the order violates the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA.

HIPAA prevents health care providers, health plans and health clearinghouses from sharing private medical information. It does not apply to employers or employee records, as CSLEA told its members.

"Further, the State is not presently mandating proof of vaccine, though it would likely be legal if it did. Employees can elect to decline to provide proof of vaccination if they are willing to adhere to the masking and testing requirements," the union said in a memo to members.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents some 28,000 prison officers and parole agents, also expressed support for the policy. State prisons saw waves of deadly coronavirus outbreaks since last year, killing 232 incarcerated people and 28 California prison employees.

A little more than half, 52%, of the state's 65,000 prison employees are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Glen Stailey, the union's president, said in a statement, Gov. "Newsom's new vaccine policy is a reasonable compromise that we can get behind. It provides for regular testing at work for those who have chosen not to get vaccinated — this will prevent the spread of the virus among correctional officers and incarcerated individuals alike."

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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