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Some California prison workers ordered to get vaccinated

August 20, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this July 9, 2020 file photo a correctional officer checks a car entering the main gate of San Quentin State Prison, in San Quentin, Calif. California is mandating that some correctional officers at state and local facilities and detention centers to get vaccinated unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg,File)
FILE - In this July 9, 2020 file photo a correctional officer checks a car entering the main gate of San Quentin State Prison, in San Quentin, Calif. California is mandating that some correctional officers at state and local facilities and detention centers to get vaccinated unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg,File)
FILE - In this July 9, 2020 file photo a correctional officer checks a car entering the main gate of San Quentin State Prison, in San Quentin, Calif. California is mandating that some correctional officers at state and local facilities and detention centers to get vaccinated unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg,File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Guards, janitors, administrators and other California corrections personnel who don’t provide health care services directly but who may be exposed to the coronavirus will now be required to get vaccinated under a new state public health order released this week.

The public health order issued Thursday builds upon an earlier order requiring that an estimated 2.2 million healthcare workers in California, whether private or public employees, be fully vaccinated by the end of September. Workers cannot opt out by agreeing to weekly testing.

The latest order, involving prisons, jails and other detention facilities, requires people who provide health care services to inmates, prisoners or detainees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14. That also includes “persons not directly involved in delivering health care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the health care setting,” such as correctional officers, maintenance workers and laundry staff.

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It’s unclear how many people this will affect. Neither California’s Department of Public Health nor the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could provide more details Friday. The office of Gov. Gavin Newsom did not respond to an email seeking more information.

Previously, the governor announced vaccination requirements involving state workers and school employees.

Even union leaders were in the dark. Glen Stailey, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said through spokesman Nathan Ballard on Friday that the union is “awaiting CDCR’s plan for implementation of the order and the impact to our members.”

The union represents about 28,000 officers and has pledged to fight any vaccination requirements.

More private employers and governments are requiring employees to be vaccinated amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, delaying plans for people to return to the office and jeopardizing in-person schooling. The mandates offer exemptions for people who decline because of a religious belief or qualifying medical reason.

In California, Newsom announced that state workers and all teachers must prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19, but they can choose to be tested frequently instead. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, all city employees, including police and firefighters, must get vaccinated without a testing option.

Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, announced last week it would require first responders to verify they are fully vaccinated or test weekly for the virus.

In Southern California, Orange County has issued a “strong recommendation” for emergency medical technicians, paramedics and home health care providers to be fully vaccinated by the end of September or undergo twice weekly coronavirus testing, said Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s health officer.

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“This is a strong recommendation, not a mandate,” Chau said. “Our belief is these colleagues of ours are actually touching really high-risk citizens, residents in Orange County.”

Also Friday, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for people dining inside restaurants, working out in gyms or attending indoor concerts.

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Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to this report.