Everyone who works in the California Assembly must receive the coronavirus vaccine or risk losing their job, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said.
Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, announced the policy on Monday following multiple cases among employees last month, including people who have already been fully vaccinated and wear masks while in the building.
A much more contagious variant of the coronavirus is fueling a surge of new cases across the country. California is averaging about 10,000 new infections a day and nearly 7,200 people are in the hospital now because of the virus.
But both of those numbers are far below the peaks seen at the beginning of the year before a vaccine was widely available.
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Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last month ordered all state employees to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. But the order did not cover legislative employees, who are not part of the executive branch of state government.
Rendon said more than 80% of Assembly employees have already been fully vaccinated. Statewide, more than 64% of people 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.
“By ensuring Assembly staff is vaccinated, we are protecting everyone who enters the Capitol, including constituents, lobbyists, and journalists,” Rendon said.
All Assembly employees must begin the process of getting vaccinated by Sept. 1, with exceptions allowed for medical or religious reasons, he said. The order does not apply to the state Senate, which has its own rules.
Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said Monday she would not require all Senate employees to be vaccinated. She said 91% of lawmakers and employees in the Senate have been vaccinated already.
Since June, the Senate has required vaccines for employees with in-person duties “in departments with high unvaccinated rates,” Atkins said.
“To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 transmitted between Senate employees in the Capitol,” she said. “We will continue to monitor the situation to determine whether a vaccination mandate of the Senate workforce at large is needed.”
Last month, at least nine employees in the state Assembly were infected by the coronavirus, including four who had been fully vaccinated. The cases prompted legislative leaders to order fully vaccinated lawmakers and employees to resume wearing masks at all times while in the Capitol or their district offices.