Governor Newsom announced the state will be requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as of September 30 (see the Dept. of Public Health order here). Additionally, to better protect workers and patients, effective August 11, visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Visitors will need to be fully masked regardless of vaccination status (see that state order here).
Throughout the pandemic, SEIU-UHW’s number one priority has been to keep healthcare workers, our families, and our patients safe. That’s why we have consistently encouraged everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been proven safe and highly effective in reducing severe illness from the virus.
The Delta variant is by far the most serious threat we’ve faced and is as easily transmitted as chickenpox. With hospitalizations dramatically rising again, we understand why frontline healthcare workers — given our unique and indispensable role — are being required to once again rise to the occasion and be the first line of defense in this unprecedented fight.
What this means for us as healthcare workers
There remain many unanswered questions about the state mandate. We will be meeting with our employers to ensure the new policies are administered fairly and that the rights of employees with medical or religious exemptions are fully respected.
What this means for workers at Kaiser
There remain many unanswered questions about both the state and Kaiser mandates, but here’s some of what we know about Kaiser’s plan:
- All employees, contractors, and agency workers will be required to provide proof of vaccination
- There is a new online system to track vaccination status. You can authorize Kaiser to pull your proof of vaccination from your records or you can upload your own proof of vaccination. Or, you can fill out a medical or religious exemption form on the system.
- If you have not submitted proof of vaccination by August 23 you will considered unvaccinated and will have to be tested for COVID-19 once or twice a week (depending on where you work)
- As of September 30 everyone will be required to show proof of vaccination or an accepted medical or religious exemption as a condition of employment.
SEIU-UHW and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions have demanded that Kaiser meet with us (see the letter here) to ensure its new policies are administered fairly and that the rights of employees with medical or religious exemptions are fully respected. Currently, 77.8% of Kaiser employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
What’s missing: real recognition for healthcare workers
Unfortunately, what is missing from the state’s announcement is long overdue recognition and appreciation from the governor and the state of California to the very same healthcare workers being called upon to step up to carry the load in hospitals and healthcare facilities across the state.
We call on the governor, the state legislature, and healthcare employers across the state to recognize the sacrifices we are making and our unique and essential role in this pandemic by accompanying this mandate with robust support, including:
- long overdue bonuses
- expanded education about the COVID-19 vaccines
- extended COVID-19 leave
- other assistance