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For Immediate Release
New Sonoma County health order requires flu shots for senior care and in-home care workers
Santa Rosa,CA | November 09, 2021
Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase has expanded the scope of an Oct. 1 health order requiring workers at certain health care and congregate facilities to get vaccinated against influenza. The widened flu vaccine requirement now applies to all workers in adult and senior care facilities licensed by the state Department of Social Services; in-home care workers, including home health aides; hospice workers; and workers at Regional Centers serving people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Workers must be in compliance by Nov. 30. Anyone granted a medical exemption or religious accommodation must wear a surgical mask or respirator at all times while at work indoors.
Flu season, which began Nov. 1 and lasts to May 1, arrives this year as Sonoma County continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine every year. Flu shots are particularly important this winter to prevent hospitals from being overrun by influenza and COVID-19 patients as both viruses circulate in the community, Dr. Mase said.
“Last year, we saw a decline in flu cases because many people responsibly avoided indoor gatherings, worked from home when they could and wore masks around others. That freed up hospital beds, helping us weather a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over winter,” Dr. Mase said. “We are in a much better situation this year, but we have come too far to lose ground. Now that we have a vaccine for COVID-19, we know many people are planning holiday gatherings around other vaccinated people. But the COVID vaccine won’t reduce your chance of getting the flu, or spreading it to others. If we all get a flu shot, then it will help keep people out of the hospital and free up our doctors and nurses to care for the very sickest in our community.”
Flu vaccines are widely available through primary health care providers, health clinics, pharmacies and some COVID vaccine clinics. It is safe to get a flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. Appointments for either or both are available through the website myturn.ca.gov.
All workers covered by the expanded health order are also required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 30 under the terms of a Sept. 28 order by the state Department of Public Health. The vaccinations are mandatory because these staffers work in high-risk settings where transmission of COVID-19 or influenza can have severe consequences for vulnerable populations resulting in extreme illness, hospitalization and death.
The flu shot requirement announced today expands the scope of an Oct. 1 order by Sonoma County Public Health that covered local nurses, physicians, technicians, therapists and pharmacists at such facilities as acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric hospitals, dialysis centers, dental offices and others. These health care workers are required to get a flu shot by Nov. 15.