To better protect the county’s health system from COVID-19 during the pandemic’s current surge, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) today released a new health order requiring first responders to verify they are fully vaccinated or test weekly for the virus.
The order, effective Sept. 17, applies to law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who work in or may respond to emergency calls at high-risk facilities such as hospitals, jails, nursing and congregate care facilities. It also applies to non-emergency ambulance workers who provide medical transport for such facilities.
“These facilities are sensitive because they are densely populated, often with people who are at high risk of serious illness or death if they become infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer. “Many of our first responders routinely visit multiple facilities, so there is a heightened risk of spreading the virus from one to another.”
Contra Costa is experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, likely due to the increasing prevalence of the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus and the relaxation of state health orders in mid-June. The average daily number of confirmed new cases in Contra Costa has increased 30% in the past two weeks.
There were 188 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Contra Costa County on Aug. 11, an increase of more than 400% from July 11. More than 80% of the county’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated.
Today’s order requires applicable workers to either test weekly for COVID-19 and promptly provide the results to their employers, or provide proof that they are fully vaccinated. Employers are required to keep vaccination records for these employees.
Contra Costa issued a similar order that took effect July 27 for workers in healthcare facilities, nursing and residential care facilities, homeless shelters and detention facilities. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has since issued similar vaccine verification requirements for state employees, healthcare workers and educators at K-12 campuses.
Today’s health order notes the county’s detention system has experienced recent outbreaks in its Martinez, Richmond and Clayton facilities, including 69 positive cases among custody staff and health workers. Most of those who tested positive were not vaccinated.