On August 11, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a new public health order requiring all school employees in public and private K-12 schools (excluding child care and higher education institutions) to verify vaccination status of all employees, or test on a weekly basis, as a means to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and align with the state’s commitment to safe, in-person instruction.

This order will take effect on August 12, 2021, with full compliance required by October 15, 2021. Here are pertinent points provided by the governor in response to questions posed at today’s press conference:

  1. Rather than requiring a vaccination mandate, the test option is being provided as the next best intermediary step. The goal of the order is to encourage all local education agency staff affected to now get vaccinated, following suit with the approximately 99% of teachers who have already done so. The “vaccine or test” option also provides additional employees time to catch up, especially those who have been working diligently all summer, often behind the scenes, to ready schools for reopening this fall.
  2. Enforcement of and compliance with this new order will be conducted in the same way as any other employment policy required by existing education codes, rules or regulations.
  3. The decision to issue the order at this time, rather than simultaneously with last month’s mandate requiring state employee vaccination or testing, was reached after taking the time needed to carefully consider reports of parental anxiety about their children’s health and safety, as well as to work in partnership with all interested parties to reach a decision that aligns with the state employment mandate.

Schools may use funds received from multiple sources to address costs associated with employee vaccination verification and COVID-19 diagnostic screening testing, including the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund I, II, and III; Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund I and II; and In-Person Instruction Grants (as afforded by AB 86). Additionally, the California Department of Public Health provides access to subsidized COVID-19 testing for schools through specified partners.