Governor Gavin Newsom visited a vaccine and testing clinic in Alameda County today to discuss new booster requirements and testing measures that will be going into effect to protect Californians as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain in the nation.
“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.”
Health care workers and all employees in high-risk congregate settings, including nursing homes, will be required to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine by February 1, 2022. Until then, 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.
In addition to the new booster requirements, Governor Newsom announced new testing measures that will both help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools and meet increased demand for COVID-19 testing.
At-home test kits will be distributed statewide for K-12 students returning to public school. According to a press release sent out by the Govenor’s office, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) distributed approximately 2 million at-home COVID-19 tests to schools in early December. In order to expand those efforts, however, CDPH will also be providing an addition 1-2 rapid tests for every student. CDPH will be working 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.”
The state of California will also be extending the hours at state-sponsored OptumServe testing sites in order to meet the increased demand. The Governor’s press releases states that 90% of the population lives within a 30-minute driving distance of a site. Over the course of the pandemic, the state has set up more than 6,000 testing sites statewide.
Combined with the new federal policies 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. California has already implemented first-in-the-nation vaccine and masking measures such as: 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.”
As officials continue learning about the Omicron variant, fully vaccinated individuals that have already received their booster are the most protected. In order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, officials urge Californians to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask indoors and get tested if sick.
To make an appointment to get vaccinated, visit myturn.ca.gov.