Health officers from Santa Clara and two other counties announced today that they “strongly urge” all employers to consider workplace Covid-19 safety policies that require their workforces to become fully vaccinated.
For any employees who are not yet fully vaccinated, employers are still required to enforce masking under current state law, says a statement from the public health departments of Santa Clara, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.
“Workers who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 pose a substantial health and financial risk to the workplace,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer. “Most importantly, workplace exposures have led to serious illnesses and deaths.”
The relaxing of community and workplace transmission guidelines since mid-June in California, and the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19—which is much more contagious than the original strains of the virus—have led to significantly higher case rates, and a higher risk of transmission at businesses and workplaces as a result, says the July 22 press release.
In Santa Clara County, as of July 22 the seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases is 113. That’s a big jump from this spring, when the local seven-day new case average was in the low 20s, which were among the lowest levels since the pandemic started in March 2020.
About 77% of Santa Clara County residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the county’s website.
Bay Area health officers say employers can play a “critical role in ensuring a safe workplace environment and boosting vaccination rates among working-age individuals by requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.” Such a requirement could be subject to limited exceptions for medical reasons or strongly held religious beliefs.
Local and national data have shown that fully vaccinated people are far less likely to catch Covid-19 or require hospitalization than those who are unvaccinated.
“Eight months since the first Covid-19 vaccine was administered, Covid-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective, and very safe, and are the most important tool we have for preventing Covid-19 illness, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer and Director of Public. “We encourage employers to take strong action to promote Covid-19 safe workplaces through vaccination and other workplace safety requirements.”
Requiring documentation of Covid-19 vaccination rather than self-attestation is recommended as a best practice for employers to ensure workers are adhering to the appropriate workplace protections, according to the press release.
Current state and federal employment law support employers requiring documentation of vaccination status, requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, and requiring additional safety precautions including masking and frequent testing for employees who are unvaccinated, the press release says. Resources are available via the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
For more information about getting vaccinated in Santa Clara County, visit sccfreevax.org.