News

Santa Clara among 3 Bay Area counties urging employers to implement vaccination policy

Recommendation comes as health officers see rise in COVID cases among unvaccinated, working individuals

Song Chen speaks with Selena Lara, an El Camino Health licensed vocational nurse, before receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at an El Camino Health vaccination site in Sunnyvale on April 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As the Bay Area experiences an increased rate of COVID-19 cases, particularly among the unvaccinated population, three county health officers urged employers on Thursday to consider implementing a vaccination mandate in the workplace.

At a virtual press conference July 22, health officers from Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties spoke on the current impact of COVID-19 within their respective jurisdictions, but were in unison when it came to the broader recent trends: The highly contagious delta variant has caused a surge in cases in the past few weeks and it's mostly coming from unvaccinated individuals.

"The current surge is really being driven by unvaccinated, working age adults, mostly in the 20- to 50-year-old age range," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County's health officer, adding that the age group has seen the most cases since seniors are more likely to be vaccinated.

The current case numbers in Santa Clara County are far below the rate the region experienced at the beginning of the year. On Jan. 5, the county recorded 2,251 cases — the highest one-day total so far this year. Data shows a recent spike in cases. On July 15, the county recorded 162 cases, which is seven times higher than the lowest total on May 31 with just 22 infections.

"One of the reasons that this recommendation is occurring at this time is that all the various counties have been seeing a dramatic increase in cases in the last several weeks," said Naveena Bobba, deputy health director at the San Francisco Public Health Department.

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The health officers also recommended that employers acquire documentation of vaccination statuses rather than self-attestations to ensure workers are following workplace policies.

For employees who refuse to get vaccinated, the officers recommended employers require medical grade masks such as N95s for the entire workplace as well as weekly COVID-19 testing for the unvaccinated. However, if all employees within a workplace show proof of vaccination, Farnitano said that "it would be very reasonable for them to unmask."

Thursday's announcement was only a recommendation and not a mandate, but the health officers reminded the public that state and federal laws allow workplaces to implement a vaccination requirement. Some major employers already have done so, including the city and county of San Francisco and smaller local businesses such as Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.

Some counties, including San Francisco and Contra Costa, have also put in place vaccine mandates specifically for workers in high-risk facilities such as acute care hospitals and homeless shelters.

But as of Thursday, the three health officials said their counties have no plans to implement a mandate for all employers or have established a specific threshold that triggers it — instead banking on employers to take the initiative.

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"Our focus right now is really on encouraging employers to take that step for their own employees," Farnitano said. "They know their own workforce and their own workplace conditions and know best how to design workplace policies that will move their employees towards vaccination."

In trying to make the case for a universal vaccination policy in the workplace, Dr. George Han, deputy health officer of Santa Clara County, pointed to the financial incentive in keeping a safe workplace environment.

"While health and safety are the most important concerns, there's also a strong financial argument for business owners to get behind vaccine requirements that help their bottom line by reducing lost productivity from employees that have to isolate or quarantine or take sick time off due to a COVID case or exposure," Han said. "And remember, some people who get severe cases of COVID or long COVID may be out of work for months."

Counties across the state are currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant after public health restrictions were mostly removed over a month ago on June 15.

Hover over each section to view the total number of cases.

Last week, Los Angeles County reinstated a mask mandate in indoor settings for all, vaccinated or unvaccinated. And while San Mateo County did not join the three Bay Area counties, it announced on Thursday a new requirement that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when inside county facilities starting this Monday, July 26.

"We know COVID is not going away," Farnitano said. "The choice now is to get the vaccine or get COVID."

Kim McCarl, communications officer for the Contra Costa Health Services, said she anticipates other Bay Area counties will make similar recommendations to employers "in due time."

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Santa Clara among 3 Bay Area counties urging employers to implement vaccination policy

Recommendation comes as health officers see rise in COVID cases among unvaccinated, working individuals

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 2:12 pm

As the Bay Area experiences an increased rate of COVID-19 cases, particularly among the unvaccinated population, three county health officers urged employers on Thursday to consider implementing a vaccination mandate in the workplace.

At a virtual press conference July 22, health officers from Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties spoke on the current impact of COVID-19 within their respective jurisdictions, but were in unison when it came to the broader recent trends: The highly contagious delta variant has caused a surge in cases in the past few weeks and it's mostly coming from unvaccinated individuals.

"The current surge is really being driven by unvaccinated, working age adults, mostly in the 20- to 50-year-old age range," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County's health officer, adding that the age group has seen the most cases since seniors are more likely to be vaccinated.

The current case numbers in Santa Clara County are far below the rate the region experienced at the beginning of the year. On Jan. 5, the county recorded 2,251 cases — the highest one-day total so far this year. Data shows a recent spike in cases. On July 15, the county recorded 162 cases, which is seven times higher than the lowest total on May 31 with just 22 infections.

"One of the reasons that this recommendation is occurring at this time is that all the various counties have been seeing a dramatic increase in cases in the last several weeks," said Naveena Bobba, deputy health director at the San Francisco Public Health Department.

The health officers also recommended that employers acquire documentation of vaccination statuses rather than self-attestations to ensure workers are following workplace policies.

For employees who refuse to get vaccinated, the officers recommended employers require medical grade masks such as N95s for the entire workplace as well as weekly COVID-19 testing for the unvaccinated. However, if all employees within a workplace show proof of vaccination, Farnitano said that "it would be very reasonable for them to unmask."

Thursday's announcement was only a recommendation and not a mandate, but the health officers reminded the public that state and federal laws allow workplaces to implement a vaccination requirement. Some major employers already have done so, including the city and county of San Francisco and smaller local businesses such as Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.

Some counties, including San Francisco and Contra Costa, have also put in place vaccine mandates specifically for workers in high-risk facilities such as acute care hospitals and homeless shelters.

But as of Thursday, the three health officials said their counties have no plans to implement a mandate for all employers or have established a specific threshold that triggers it — instead banking on employers to take the initiative.

"Our focus right now is really on encouraging employers to take that step for their own employees," Farnitano said. "They know their own workforce and their own workplace conditions and know best how to design workplace policies that will move their employees towards vaccination."

In trying to make the case for a universal vaccination policy in the workplace, Dr. George Han, deputy health officer of Santa Clara County, pointed to the financial incentive in keeping a safe workplace environment.

"While health and safety are the most important concerns, there's also a strong financial argument for business owners to get behind vaccine requirements that help their bottom line by reducing lost productivity from employees that have to isolate or quarantine or take sick time off due to a COVID case or exposure," Han said. "And remember, some people who get severe cases of COVID or long COVID may be out of work for months."

Counties across the state are currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant after public health restrictions were mostly removed over a month ago on June 15.

Last week, Los Angeles County reinstated a mask mandate in indoor settings for all, vaccinated or unvaccinated. And while San Mateo County did not join the three Bay Area counties, it announced on Thursday a new requirement that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when inside county facilities starting this Monday, July 26.

"We know COVID is not going away," Farnitano said. "The choice now is to get the vaccine or get COVID."

Kim McCarl, communications officer for the Contra Costa Health Services, said she anticipates other Bay Area counties will make similar recommendations to employers "in due time."

Comments

chris
Registered user
University South
on Jul 22, 2021 at 4:45 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Jul 22, 2021 at 4:45 pm

As of Monday, Palo Alto is requiring masks in all city facilities. A better step would be to require vaccine passports to enter city facilities. At this point, there is no excuse for anybody over 12 not to be vaccinated, except in extremely rate medical circumstances


Jimmy
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 22, 2021 at 5:23 pm
Jimmy, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Jul 22, 2021 at 5:23 pm

Mask up people. So simple. vaccine passports not so much in favor for that. But if its required then it is what it is.


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2021 at 8:51 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 22, 2021 at 8:51 pm

It would help immensely if the FDA gave FULL approval to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines - without it, it’s going to be hard to mandate. These are still unfortunately only in emergency approval status.

This seems to account for a good chunk of anti-vaxer hesitancy who regard the vaccines as just “experimental treatments.”


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Jul 22, 2021 at 9:13 pm
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Jul 22, 2021 at 9:13 pm

@PA Community Advocate full approval is likely to take until January of February.

Realistically, the City of Palo Alto, and Palo Alto Unified School District should heed the advice of county health officers, and implement mandatory vaccination for their employees. We (and our kids) don't have a choice about interacting them, and it would do a lot ot know that they're vaccinated.


Fr0hickey
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2021 at 11:02 am
Fr0hickey, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 23, 2021 at 11:02 am

Web Link

Vaccine manufacturers are granted immunity from liability for adverse side effects... until 2024.
FDA can't be sued for granting emergency use authorization to COVID vaccines.
Employers can't be held accountable if they mandate inoculation as a condition of employment.



PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2021 at 9:08 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 23, 2021 at 9:08 pm

Again extremely pro-vax, but when anti-vaxers read Fr0hickey‘s breakdown of how the system is designed to protect Big Pharma, the FDA, and employers — can you really blame them for being skeptical?

Personally I really struggled for months to understand their vaccine hesitations, but they have a number of valid points. Let’s be respectful and hear them out.

This nation’s covid struggles has made it clear that the world is not always black and white. The good guy vs bad guy narratives have been proven to be too simplistic.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2021 at 11:31 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 25, 2021 at 11:31 am

It is important to remember that the sick are now most likely to be the unvaccinated. We are very well vaccinated in SCC, so where are these numbers coming from?

Are the unvaccinated having big interactions and passing the virus on to each other (as one tv doctor/specialist suggests), or are they passing on the virus in grocery stores and workplaces.

I have downloaded the app on my phone which should be pinging every time I come into contact with someone who has had a recent positive Covid test. I have not received one ping. Reading about the UK, there is a pingdemic of their trace app and people are staying away from work or school because of the pings. Is our app not working, or are the positive cases just not mixing with the rest of us?

Pinging apps should be going crazy if the virus is really circulating in SCC.


Robert Montez
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jul 25, 2021 at 11:56 am
Robert Montez, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jul 25, 2021 at 11:56 am

The app is not working...be safe out there.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:53 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2021 at 10:53 am

The FDA is a scientific body. They have a standard for testing pharmaceuticals for acceptable safety. People who are waiting for approval ARE following the science.

Stating that the FDA should fully approve just to boost immunization rates is the exact reverse of science because you are assuming the conclusion.






Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2021 at 1:06 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 1, 2021 at 1:06 pm

About full FDA approval. I think it possible that the balance of the approval work that the FDA needs to do is not about the substance of the vaccine or how it is distributed and administered in an emergency situation, but about the labeling, instructions, packaging, and storage/shelf-life that are critical considerations when the vaccine is released for general, non-emergency distribution. If my understanding about that is correct, it is time for the messaging to improve so that those among us who are wary of the vaccine might reconsider their decision knowing that the vaccine is safe to receive.

Plea to the unvaccinated: please reconsider. We are in an emergency situation. Getting vaccinated will provide needed protection for yourself and others.


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