News

'We are not done': Local leaders want schools to mandate vaccines for employees

Call to action comes as students prepare to go back to class while COVID cases remain on the rise

People wait at a vaccination site at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto on May 15, 2020. Photo by Daniela Beltran B.

State Sen. Josh Becker and East Palo Alto City Council member Antonio Lopez called on school districts to mandate vaccines for its employees during a joint press conference hosted at the Ravenswood Family Health Center on Tuesday.

"As we prepare to send our kids back to school, as my wife and I prepare to send our kids back to our public schools, now is the moment for us to create a wall of safety around our kids," Becker, D-Menlo Park, said during the morning event in East Palo Alto.

This academic year, most students are expected to return to the classroom, a move that local, state and federal health officials have urged given the learning loss as well as other health and economic burdens that come with distance learning.

But the urgency to get back inside the classroom also comes as COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise, particularly due to the more infectious delta variant. Eight Bay Area county health officers reinstated mask mandates in indoor settings starting Tuesday.

All the while, children under 12 years old are still not cleared to receive any of the available vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

During the news conference, Becker suggested schools should aim to get 100% of their staff inoculated.

"Even if 80%, 90% of teachers and staff are vaccinated, what if your kid is interacting with the other 10% to 20%?" Becker said. "So let's put our kids first."

State Sen. Josh Becker urges school districts to mandate vaccines for its employees during a press conference at the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto on Aug. 3, 2021. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

The senator also added that he has recently heard of several COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, including at Brentwood Union School District in Contra Costa County.

California and Santa Clara County so far have been reluctant to implement a vaccination mandate outside of their own public employees, instead sticking with recommendations to implement them in the workplace, for example.

On July 26, the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1.7 million educators across the nation, according to its website, issued a press release that stated vaccinations should "be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Some universities and local school districts are already requiring teachers and students to be vaccinated before they come to campus this fall.

East Palo Alto City Council member Antonio Lopez urges school district employees to get vaccinated in lieu of getting regularly tested at a press conference at the Ravenswood Family Health Center on Aug. 3, 2021. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

Stanford University announced its decision to do so in late April; the Foothill-De Anza Community College District board of trustees adopted a vaccine mandate for its students and employees in June; and San Jose Unified School District, the largest school district in Santa Clara County, announced on July 27 that it will require teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested twice a week for COVID-19.

Lopez said on Tuesday that he has not yet had conversations with the Ravenswood City School District regarding its vaccination progress, but followed Becker in urging everyone to get the vaccine.

"We are now largely vaccinated," Lopez said, referring to the East Palo Alto population. "But we are not done."

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Get uninterrupted access to important local education news. Become a member today.

'We are not done': Local leaders want schools to mandate vaccines for employees

Call to action comes as students prepare to go back to class while COVID cases remain on the rise

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 5:31 pm

State Sen. Josh Becker and East Palo Alto City Council member Antonio Lopez called on school districts to mandate vaccines for its employees during a joint press conference hosted at the Ravenswood Family Health Center on Tuesday.

"As we prepare to send our kids back to school, as my wife and I prepare to send our kids back to our public schools, now is the moment for us to create a wall of safety around our kids," Becker, D-Menlo Park, said during the morning event in East Palo Alto.

This academic year, most students are expected to return to the classroom, a move that local, state and federal health officials have urged given the learning loss as well as other health and economic burdens that come with distance learning.

But the urgency to get back inside the classroom also comes as COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise, particularly due to the more infectious delta variant. Eight Bay Area county health officers reinstated mask mandates in indoor settings starting Tuesday.

All the while, children under 12 years old are still not cleared to receive any of the available vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.

During the news conference, Becker suggested schools should aim to get 100% of their staff inoculated.

"Even if 80%, 90% of teachers and staff are vaccinated, what if your kid is interacting with the other 10% to 20%?" Becker said. "So let's put our kids first."

The senator also added that he has recently heard of several COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, including at Brentwood Union School District in Contra Costa County.

California and Santa Clara County so far have been reluctant to implement a vaccination mandate outside of their own public employees, instead sticking with recommendations to implement them in the workplace, for example.

On July 26, the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1.7 million educators across the nation, according to its website, issued a press release that stated vaccinations should "be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced."

Some universities and local school districts are already requiring teachers and students to be vaccinated before they come to campus this fall.

Stanford University announced its decision to do so in late April; the Foothill-De Anza Community College District board of trustees adopted a vaccine mandate for its students and employees in June; and San Jose Unified School District, the largest school district in Santa Clara County, announced on July 27 that it will require teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested twice a week for COVID-19.

Lopez said on Tuesday that he has not yet had conversations with the Ravenswood City School District regarding its vaccination progress, but followed Becker in urging everyone to get the vaccine.

"We are now largely vaccinated," Lopez said, referring to the East Palo Alto population. "But we are not done."

Comments

Nancy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 4, 2021 at 10:48 am
Nancy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 10:48 am

Thank you, Senator Becker, for advocating K-12 teachers and staff be vaccinated for COVID. The UCs and Cal State universities require their faculty and staff be vaccinated. So should our K-12 schools. See Web Link Web Link


Infuriating!
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2021 at 11:40 am
Infuriating!, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 11:40 am

Dr. Austin said 97.5% of staff are vaccinated in his tweet last night but I do not think that is accurate. I would like them to aggregate their data and specify how many teachers and staff members reported their status including all staff that work with kids. How many staff members reported their vaccination status? Is that percentage only based on the staff that reported their status the last week of school when many were too busy to fill it out? Mr. Austin- I believe you have been misinformed/mislead by someone you work with. There is no chance that is a true statistic.


Judy Buttrill
Registered user
Community Center
on Aug 4, 2021 at 12:30 pm
Judy Buttrill, Community Center
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 12:30 pm

As a former PAusd teacher, I feel there has to be accommodation in the district for those staff with religious or medical issues that preclude getting vaccinated. Does that mean they have the right to infect students? I don’t think so. They can be assigned to teach students virtually. There are some parents opting for that format.

There should be no question about vaccination status for anyone. Vaccinations for staff and students should be mandatory. The state QR code for individuals is easily accessible and should be required for verification from staff and students. The district needs to start monkeying around with surveys.

We only further the politicization of the measures that need to be taken to meet what is an urgent public health issue when we base decisions of public health on surveys. Politics needs to be taken out of it. In a situation where a public health emergency involving a deadly pandemic requires inconvenient means to protect children’s lives, coercion is justified. I believe supreme court decisions of long ago are in accord with this idea.


cjerian
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Aug 4, 2021 at 12:38 pm
cjerian, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 12:38 pm

I think all the vaccine should be mandatory for all school staff and students that are eligible, except for those with medical reasons. My company has this policy for anyone who works in person, and this makes sense generally.


Optimist Pessimist Realist
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm
Optimist Pessimist Realist , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm

Too bad that Councilman Lopez isn’t as focused on getting his constituents vaccinated as he is pointing the finger at teachers and staff. One large neighborhood that’s highly populated in East Palo Alto has been hovering at only 50% vaccination until Mayor Romero began a concerted effort there. Lopez was super focused on conspiring to get rid of the city attorney to do more than photo ops.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:33 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:33 pm

Although, it’s easy to score cheap political points as the “person standing up for the children,” this Senator isn’t totally wrong. All K—12 school staff across the U.S. should be fully vaccinated upon returning, but his premise for vaccination twists everything back on mostly the teachers/staff, that “they would infect the precious school children if they aren’t vaccinated.” Those same unvaccinated school children can just as easily be carriers and infect the adults. This just serves as another potential avenue to blame the educators, the schools, or the unions if transmission takes place. There is already an “infuriated” commenter here above. Are the parents of these students vaccinated? If they are between 12-17 years old, did they take the vaccine themselves? It is called working together as a community. The students 12-17 years old and their parents should also need to show the school proof of vaccination. The lives of the teachers are just as important as the lives of the precious children. Vaccines should be made mandatory for families and eligible children as well to be allowed to attend school Senator.

Brentwood and Oakley schools already have reopened and reported multiple cases within their first 3 days of returning. Staff was infected and students were infected. To my earlier point it went both ways. More younger Americans are becoming infected with the Delta and are being hospitalized. Finally, the Delta was reported to “travel from host to host faster than the Ebola Virus” and “spreads as easily as the chickenpox.” If you think schools are a bastion of safety from the pandemic(as has been promoted by the media to return kids to school for economic purposes) and can keep your children safe from a potentially fatal pathogen, you might want to think again. The shoe is on the other foot. Teachers and staff are likely vaccinated and protected while the children are not. I am concerned.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:49 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:49 pm

" Those same unvaccinated school children can just as easily be carriers and infect the adults."

Do we have to go through this again? Data shows that young children are much less susceptible to COVID-19.

"Brentwood and Oakley schools already have reopened and reported multiple cases within their first 3 days of returning"

And none attributed to infection in the classroom.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2021 at 7:46 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2021 at 7:46 pm

[Portion removed.]

Yesterday you denied Florida hospitalizations increased when a simple google search would have given you that information.

If you want to deny there are outbreaks taking place at schools or that staff and students are walking into schools infected across the U.S. because under your premise “that it didn’t happen in the classroom” you can feel free to.

You can also deny that more children are being hospitalized now before school starts.

[Portion removed.]

You can also deny Delta became the dominant variant and that this is not the same coronavirus that was circulating last year that possibly didn’t effect the children as badly as adults for the most part(as you stated). You actually have no idea if Delta will effect children more harshly. Even many medical experts aren’t sure yet.

You can also feel free to [portion removed] say this is all propaganda, blame the union, and blame the teachers for everything [portion removed.]

You also can feel free to keep your fixed mindset “that schools must be open” during the greatest disease outbreak in a century. Meanwhile some companies just announced they aren’t having vaccinated employees back until 2022. But yet you constantly advocate for unvaccinated children to return in person during the current peak in Delta infections.

[Portion removed.]


Optimist Pessimist Realist
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:07 pm
Optimist Pessimist Realist , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:07 pm

Voice of Palo Alto, the vaccine rates here have been much lower than surrounding cities. this means the parents and grandparents of the school kids are were not vaccinated. Suddenly Councilman Lopez comes out finger pointing at the schools when he should be pointing fingers at his people (“my people” as he likes to refer to them.) Instead of working on increasing those vaccine rates among residents he’s been in photo ops and interviews with a provaccine stance but he’s not walking his talk like the mayor, volunteers and staff have done. For voters like me this is an important issue and I’ll remember he was busy with a personal agenda during this important phase of the pandemic.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2021 at 2:28 pm
Palo Alto Resident, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2021 at 2:28 pm

Two opportunistic politicians, Becker and Lopez, out telling other organizations what to do - nice!

Hey, if only we knew somebody in the State Legislature who could pass a law, or who could get the Dept of Public Health or the Governor to issue a mandate - that would be great! Then every little school district or city wouldn't have to figure this out on their own, negotiate it with their unions, and deal with the fallout.

Oh wait - Becker IS a state senator! Isn't that what they are supposed to do? Hmm, seems like he might want to just go do his job instead of grabbing photo ops and cheap headlines.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2021 at 4:30 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2021 at 4:30 pm

It is unimaginable that teachers (or students) would be allowed to attend or teach at school without polio, tetanus, smallpox, hepatitis, measles, mumps, rubella, and other mandated vaccinations. This is a fact of life that few question, even though we know that no vaccine is 100% effective, and in rare cases, a small number of people will have negative reactions to the vaccine.

We mandate all these vaccinations in schools because doing so is necessary in order to create herd immunity and protect the community at large.

California schools do NOT allow a "personal beliefs" exemption:
Web Link

The State has lots of information about what vaccinations it provides, as well as its rationale for requiring vaccinations, here:
Web Link


NOW we are facing a global pandemic unlike anything seen in recent history. We finally have a vaccine which is imperfect and has the potential to create negative side affects in a very small percentage of vaccinated individuals -- exactly like most other vaccinations -- but that, like with other vaccines, protects both the vast number of vaccinated people, as well as protecting the community at large.

The only actual material difference between the covid vaccine and most others is that the Covid vaccine is not yet mandated as often as other vaccinations. We must change that if we hope to emerge from this pandemic and truly begin to recover as an economy, culture, and community.

Please, everyone: if you are medically capable of getting vaccinated (and are not otherwise immune due to recent infection): GET VACCINATED. And let's urge all employers to require immunity among eligible employees as well. It is the only way to beat this virus, and the longer we wait, the more mutations will arrive. The time is now.


Optimist Pessimist Realist
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2021 at 6:54 pm
Optimist Pessimist Realist , East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2021 at 6:54 pm

Oh the irony of Senator Becker cheering Street Code Academy but their CEO refuses to get vaccinated, yet Becker wants all school staff to do so. Street Code’s CEO is one of the stubborn anti-vaccine residents we have here. What a bad example he sets.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.