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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California’s health care and long-term care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30, state health officials said Thursday.

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The California Department of Public Health’s order is more extensive than last week’s announcement by state officials, who announced that all health care workers must show proof of vaccination, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The latest order prevents health care workers from testing as an alternative to receive the vaccine, the newspaper reported. There are about 2 million health care workers in the state.

The new mandate applies to employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, clinics, doctor’s offices, hospice facilities, dialysis centers and most other health care settings, the Los Angeles Times reported. It stipulates that the workers complete their inoculation regimen by Sept. 30.

There are exceptions. Workers who are granted a religious or medical exemption will be required to be tested twice a week in acute care and long-term care settings and once a week in other health care settings, the Chronicle reported.

Unvaccinated employees would also be required to wear a surgical mask or respirator, such as an N95, while inside a facility, according to the Times.

“As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.”

California is averaging 18.3 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people a day, with the delta variant causing most of the new infections, according to The Associated Press. About 63% of Californians 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, while another 10% have been partially vaccinated, the AP reported.

The state order also notes that hospitals and other health facilities will also be required to verify that visitors are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival, the Times reported.

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