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California to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers, health care employees

The requirement comes as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated.

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. — California state workers, healthcare workers, and employees in “high-risk congregate settings” will now be required to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus at least once a week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new policy, in what state officials are calling a first-in-the-nation safety standard, at a press conference in Oakland on Monday. The governor also encouraged local governments and employers to follow suit in the state’s new stringent requirements.

“Too many people have chosen to live with this virus. We’re at a point in this pandemic where choice, individual’s choice not to get the vaccine is impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” Newsom said.

Watch: Gov. Newsom announce proof of COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and health care employees. 

The requirement comes as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated. Officials announced Monday that the new rules will take effect on Aug. 2, and officials say testing will be phased in over “the next few weeks.” In addition to being tested at least once weekly, unvaccinated workers will also still be required to wear face coverings and other appropriate PPE, officials said.

Officials say “high-risk congregate settings” include places like adult and senior living facilities, jails, and homeless shelters.

“As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same,” Newsom said.

There are at least 238,000 state employees, and more than 2 million health care workers in the nation's most populated state.

To date, roughly 71% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine shot according to the California Department of Public Health. However, the state has struggled to make significant progress in recent weeks. The more contagious delta variant now makes up an estimated 80% of infections in California. Hospitalizations are on the rise, though still far below a winter peak.

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Watch more: No, children aren't more likely to catch the delta variant