Recommendation to begin testing for un-boosted school employees immediately
Santa Rosa, CA – December 23, 2021 – As COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations increase, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase today issued a health order for all schools in Sonoma County to require employees to provide satisfactory evidence that, when eligible, they have received a booster for COVID-19 or begin testing at least twice weekly. To protect the community from a winter surge of COVID-19 cases, it is highly recommended that this minimum of twice-weekly testing of unvaccinated and unboosted school employees begin as soon as possible.
On August 11, 2021, the California Department of Public Health issued an order requiring all public and private schools serving students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12 to verify the COVID-19 vaccination status of all workers and to require unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers to undergo COVID-19 testing.
The new mandate will take effect on Feb. 1, expanding the current order to include booster verification or at least twice weekly testing for all school personnel who are eligible. “We are facing colder weather, holiday travel and gatherings, and a new highly transmissible variant,” Dr. Mase said. “This order is just one of the steps we are taking to protect our community from the most serious health outcomes associated with COVID-19.”
Booster shots offer increased protection against variants like omicron by decreasing the chances of those who are infected from becoming severely ill. Sonoma County identified the first case of the highly transmissible omicron variant on Dec. 16. In other locations, omicron has very quickly become the dominant strain of COVID-19 which makes getting boosted or regularly tested critically important.
This level of increased protection for employees in our schools is especially critical. “This health order is vital in helping keep our schools open as we seek to minimize further disruptions to learning,” said Dr. Steven Herrington, Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools. “The coronavirus pandemic forced our students to learn remotely for two-thirds of the 2020-21 school year, following three years of interruptions caused by wildfires and flooding. While vaccines have allowed a return to in-person classes, ensuring our school communities are as protected as they can be from omicron and future potential variants is essential for providing a safe environment conducive to education.” The Sonoma County Office of Education is working with the county’s vaccination team to host a booster clinic through My Turn, with details to come.
Santa Rosa Junior College will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 and work closely with Dr. Mase, as considerations for any policy adjustments in the future. “The implementation of the vaccine requirement at SRJC has gone very well and has allowed us to increase the number of in-person classes and services we’ve been able to offer our students while keeping everyone safe,” said SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong. “Currently we have not made a decision regarding requiring the booster for on-site employees, students and volunteers. We understand the necessity of the booster, particularly against this new virulent strain of COVID-19. We intend to consider that requirement, in consultation with our constituent groups, and will make a decision when we return from our semester break, likely in mid-January.”
COVID-19 cases have started to increase throughout California. As of today, Sonoma County’s new cases per day per 100,000 residents was 27.3 among unvaccinated individuals and 6.7 among vaccinated residents with an overall case rate of 12.3 per 100,000. There are currently 24 COVID-19 patients in Sonoma County hospitals. Meanwhile, Sonoma County has fully vaccinated 76 percent of residents 5 and older while 46 percent of eligible residents aged 16+ have received booster doses.
Visit www.SoCoEmergency.org for Health Order information as well as vaccination and testing locations.
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County of Sonoma
Director of Communications
Sonoma County Office of Education