San Francisco, CA

California could fire vaccine-resistant healthcare workers despite federal court ruling blocking nationwide mandate

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Healthcare providers and hospitals around the state are moving forward with potential terminations for workers who have failed to meet the state's vaccination deadline, despite a federal court blocking the national mandate on Tuesday.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Biden administration's attempt to require all healthcare workers to be vaccinated by January. However, a state mandate, issued on Oct. 19, requires all workers at health care facilities — that includes nursing homes, dialysis centers, security guards at hospitals, housekeeping staff and many others — to be vaccinated.

Several of the state's biggest healthcare providers suspended scores of workers, largely without pay, when the vaccine mandate took effect at the end of September but offered employees multiple weeks to initiate the vaccination process.

Kaiser Permanente, which employs roughly 82,000 workers in Northern California, offers those who missed the deadline a limited extension, according to The East Bay Times.

The healthcare giant announced Tuesday that employees whose requests for medical exemptions were denied on or before Nov. 7 will face termination if they don't comply by Dec. 8. For those whose requests were denied after Nov. 7, they will not face termination until at least Jan. 10.

This comes the same week that an appellate court temporarily blocked a vaccination mandate for all California prison employees. That mandate would have gone into effect by Jan. 12 but now unvaccinated employees can submit to regular testing rather than get vaccinated.

Initially, the mandate was challenged by the prison system, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a union representing the state’s prison guards and Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

As noted, Newsom's office previously issued a series of mandates requiring every healthcare worker to be vaccinated and has stressed the importance of everyone getting vaccinated. It's unclear why the governor's office was inconsistent on this issue.

According to the East Bay Times, that prison guard union contributed $1.75 million to fight the recent recall effort against Newsom.

Thus far, more than 240 inmate deaths and 45 employee deaths have been linked to COVID-19.

If the appeal succeeds, unvaccinated employees will be able to keep their jobs provided they submit to bi-weekly testing and remain virus-free.

According to the California Department of Corrections, more than 65% of the state's roughly 66,000 prison workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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