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For Immediate Release
Sonoma County urges employers to require proof of COVID-19 booster shot or at least twice-weekly testing
Santa Rosa,CA | December 28, 2021
Employers should immediately require all workers to get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, if eligible for one, or get tested at least twice weekly for COVID under new guidelines issued today by Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.
The guidelines are voluntary but strongly recommended to help mitigate a potential winter surge in COVID-19 cases and protect the health of local workers, their families and vulnerable members of the extended community.
“COVID-19 cases are increasing again in Sonoma County, but we can keep both our community and our economy healthy if employers require workers to get a booster shot as soon as they are eligible for one,” Dr. Mase said. “People who choose not to get vaccinated or boosted should be tested for COVID at least twice a week to detect outbreaks quickly and reduce the amount of time infected workers can unknowingly transmit the virus to others.”
In addition to twice-weekly testing, employers should consider requiring unvaccinated and unboosted employees, if eligible for a booster, to wear an FDA-cleared surgical mask or respirator in indoor work settings.
“Given how contagious the omicron variant is proving to be, cloth masks are just not as effective in stopping the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Mase. “We recommend that everyone upgrade to a surgical mask or something equivalent.”
Last week, Dr. Mase issued two health orders requiring booster shots or twice-weekly testing for local school employees and for personnel working in fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, pharmacies, dental offices and temporary disaster shelters in Sonoma County. The mandatory orders take effect Feb. 1, although Public Health highly recommends that employers covered by the orders immediately begin testing unvaccinated and unboosted employees at least twice weekly.
The county mandate expanded a California Department of Public Health order requiring health care workers, adult care facilities and direct care workers, and correctional facility and detention center health care staff to receive booster shots.
Employers can require workers to be vaccinated, including having a booster. Requiring documentation of COVID-19 vaccination, rather than self-attestation, is the best practice for employers to ensure workers are adhering to the appropriate workplace protections. Additional employer resources are available from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
A vaccination policy benefits employers and employees alike because a fully vaccinated individual who also has had a booster is less likely to experience severe illness, hospitalization and death. In addition, quarantine requirements are different for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. Currently, unvaccinated employees must quarantine for at least 10 days if they come into close contact with someone who tested positive. Fully vaccinated workers, on the other hand, do not need to quarantine unless they have symptoms.
The County of Sonoma, the region’s largest employer, is evaluating its COVID-19 vaccination policy and procedures with the goal of implementing Dr. Mase’s latest recommendation for its workforce as soon as possible.
Booster shots offer increased protection against COVID-19 by decreasing the chances that infections will cause severe illness. While primary vaccinations safely and effectively boost immunity to COVID-19, data shows a decline in the effectiveness of the vaccine over time, particularly in older adults.
Everyone 16 and older should get a booster as soon as they are eligible, but particularly people over 50 or those with significant underlying health conditions. Get one if:
- Six months have passed since your second dose of Moderna (18+)
- Six months have passed since your second dose of Pfizer (16+)
- Two months have passed since your Johnson & Johnson dose (18+)
As of today, Sonoma County has fully vaccinated 76.7 percent of residents 5 and older, or more than 360,000 people. More than 146,000 people have received booster doses.
Since Thanksgiving, the number of COVID-19 cases detected daily in unvaccinated people in Sonoma County has more than tripled, from 16.9 per 100,000 residents to 51.9 per 100,000 residents, the highest since late August. New daily cases detected among vaccinated residents increased from 6.9 per 100,000 residents to 7.9 per 100,000 residents during the same period.
Visit www.SoCoEmergency.org for Health Order information as well as vaccination and testing locations.