Contra Costa County health officials urge employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations

Omicron variant detected in Contra Costa County
Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County, speaks at a news conference on March 23, 2020.

Health officers representing Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are urging employers to require that their workers are fully vaccinated.

In a joint statement, the health officials for the three counties cited rising COVID-19 cases, including the rapid spread of the Delta variant, as “leaving unvaccinated individuals at risk for serious illness and death.” Local and national data “show that fully vaccinated people are far less likely to catch COVID-19 or require hospitalization than people who are unvaccinated,” the health officers said.

The recommendation suggests that employers require proof of vaccination from employees rather than self-attestation, and further states that California and federal employment law “support employers requiring documentation of vaccination status, requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, and requiring additional safety precautions including masking and frequent testing for employees who are unvaccinated.”

“Employers can play a critical role in ensuring a safe workplace environment and boosting vaccination rates among working-age individuals by requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, with very limited exceptions for medical exemptions or strongly held religious beliefs,” the health officers said.

Employees not fully vaccinated are legally required to wear masks and employers should require frequent COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated employees, they added.

“Workers who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 pose a substantial health and financial risk to the workplace,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer. “Most importantly, workplace exposures have led to serious illnesses and deaths.”