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Nearly 40% of California state workers are unvaccinated against COVID despite Newsom order

Wes Venteicher, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The COVID-19 vaccination rate is lower among California state workers than among the state's general population, according to data from the state Human Resources Department.

Fewer than two-thirds of state workers — about 62% — were vaccinated as of Oct. 7, according to preliminary figures provided by department spokeswoman Camille Travis. That compares to a rate of about 72% among all Californians, according to state data.

The employee data is incomplete, accounting for about 213,000 of the state's 238,000 employees, Travis said. But the relatively low rate identified so far suggests many workers weren't moved by Gov. Gavin Newsom's July orders to workers to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

Several of the largest state departments shared vaccination rates for their staff: 52% of California Highway Patrol employees, 60% of Department of Motor Vehicles employees and 60% of prison employees have received the shots. Caltrans reports a higher rate, with 70% of its employees vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Newsom administration's shot-or-test rules for state workers are less stringent than those the governor imposed on health care workers, who must get vaccinated unless claiming a religious or medical exemption.

Newsom's administration also is defending state prison employees' ability to choose whether they get vaccinated. The Democrat's administration is appealing a ruling from federal judge who ordered the state to ensure that all prison employees are vaccinated against the virus.

 

Still, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly expressed frustration with the pace of vaccination in a Sept. 28 letter to state employees he said was occasioned by the preventable COVID-19 death of a worker who left behind a wife and two children.

"We haven't done enough," Ghaly said in the letter. "Despite our work to avoid it, we have allowed an invaluable, life-saving health intervention (to) become more complicated, more polarizing, more confusing than anything seen before in modern medicine."

He urged employees to get vaccinated for their families, noting the vaccines are safe and effective and have helped keep the delta variant of the virus at bay.

"For whatever reason that has held you out from getting vaccinated, I implore you to reconsider," he said in the letter.

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