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California says health care workers must get COVID booster shots

The state wants hospital workers to be protected to deal with the coming surge of omicron infections.
Registered nurse Emily Yu gestures to Paul Altamirano, 50, while treating him in a COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 13. California health care workers will be required to get booster shots to ensure hospitals are ready to deal with a surge of omicron infections.
Registered nurse Emily Yu gestures to Paul Altamirano, 50, while treating him in a COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 13. California health care workers will be required to get booster shots to ensure hospitals are ready to deal with a surge of omicron infections. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]
Published Dec. 22, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California health care workers will be required to have coronavirus booster shots to ensure that hospitals are ready to deal with a surge in cases as the more-transmissible omicron variant spreads throughout the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the order Tuesday on his personal Twitter account and planned to provide more details at a Wednesday news conference.

California already requires health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, a directive that took effect in September and has since led to the firing or suspension of thousands of people. Now it will join New Mexico as at least the second state to require booster shots for health care workers.

Last week, Newsom, who imposed the first statewide shutdown order in March 2020, warned that cases would likely rise and re-imposed a rule requiring everyone to wear masks at public indoor gatherings.

Concerns stem from the rise of omicron, which as of Monday was the dominant variant of the coronavirus in the United States. Areas in the Midwest and Northeast are seeing the biggest jump in cases and hospitalizations amid frigid temperatures that have kept people indoors.

Much about the variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Scientists say omicron spreads more easily than other coronavirus strains, including delta. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a third shot for the best chance at preventing infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

California has so far fared far better than many other states. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists California as a place with “high” transmission of the virus, along with nearly everywhere else in the country. But in the last week California averaged 114 new cases per 100,000 people, less than half the national rate.

While 70 percent of Californians have been fully vaccinated, that still leaves 30 percent — or roughly 12 million people — who haven’t been. The California Department of Public Health says people who are not vaccinated are seven times more likely to get infected, nearly 13 times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly 16 times more likely to die from the coronavirus.

Coronavirus related hospitalizations have been rising slowly in California, up 15 percent in the last 11 days to 3,852. That’s less than half as many as during the late summer peak and one-fifth of a year ago, before vaccines were widely available.

But while hospitals overall have fewer patients than last winter, many have fewer workers to treat the patients they do have. The staffing shortage comes as businesses are having trouble finding workers, including hospitals. A recent study by the University of California-San Francisco estimated the state’s nursing shortage could persist until 2026.

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By Associated Press Writer Adam Beam. Associated Press reporter Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your zip code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

COVID AND THE FLU: Get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine to avoid a ‘twindemic.’

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A TRIBUTE TO FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officers and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

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