Throughout the world, public health officials are attempting to contain the rapid spread of the new COVID-19 variant, omicron. California is facing extraordinary levels of omicron spread — last week, California had 5,400 diagnosed cases of the variant; as of yesterday, that jumped to 11,000 diagnosed cases. Similarly, the test positivity rate in California for omicron has increased from 2.3% last week to 3.3% as of Dec. 22.
In the face of this significant growth, on Dec. 22 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a new public health order on vaccinations. The Dec. 22 state public health order builds on the Aug. 5 health order and includes important changes around booster shots for vaccinated health care workers.
In summary, the Dec. 22 public health order:
- Requires all health care workers, including volunteers, to receive a booster when eligible (see below for more detail).
- Requires twice-weekly testing and the use of a surgical mask or an N95 respirator for workers who are exempted from the booster requirement or who have not yet received their booster.
- Requires all eligible workers to receive their booster by Feb. 1, 2022. After Feb. 1, workers must receive their booster within 15 days of becoming eligible for a booster.
- Continues existing exclusions for qualifying religious- or health-based exemptions. Workers who have been vaccinated but wish to decline the booster may also be eligible for an exemption.
Facilities must begin testing all booster-eligible workers who have not yet received their booster by Dec. 27.
CHA has asked CDPH for more time to implement hospital testing programs for staff without a documented booster but has not yet received a response. The public health order includes a table to assist hospitals in determining eligibility for a booster. Additionally, CDPH has issued FAQs on implementing the order. If you have any questions, please contact Gideon Baum, vice president, policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.