Fairrington told KCRA he’d received hundreds of calls from health care workers, teachers, and government employees asking him to consider the religious exemption, which requires in-person attendance to receive. “People were driving for hours to be here,” the pastor said.
Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote in a letter dated August 11 there will be no such religious exemption where he is concerned, and he would not be signing a declaration written by the Colorado Catholic Conference on vaccinations and Catholic teachings. “The purpose of this declaration seems to be to elicit from the pastor a public indication that a specific parishioner’s decision to refuse the COVID vaccine is rooted in and supported by authentic Catholic faith,” McElroy said. “Such a declaration is particularly problematic because the Holy See has made it clear that receiving the COVID vaccine is perfectly consistent with Catholic faith, and indeed laudatory in the light of the common good in this time of pandemic.”
Fairrington’s exemptions follow an order signed on August 5 by State Director and State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón, requiring health care workers to have received at least one vaccine dose by September 30.
“’Worker’ refers to all paid and unpaid individuals who work in indoor settings where (1) care is provided to patients, or (2) patients have access for any purpose,” Aragón said in the order. “This includes workers serving in health care or other health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or SARS-CoV-2 airborne aerosols. Workers include, but are not limited to, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students, and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the health care facility, and persons not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the health care setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel).”
Aragón also stated in the order:
“The COVID-19 pandemic remains a significant challenge in California. COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing infection and serious disease. At present, 63% of Californians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated with an additional 10% partially vaccinated. California is currently experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 18.3 new cases per 100,000 people per day, with case rates increasing ninefold within two months. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and may cause more severe illness. In fact, recent data suggests that viral load is roughly 1,000 times higher in people infected with the Delta variant than those infected with the original coronavirus strain, according to a recent study. The Delta variant is currently the most common variant causing new infections in California.
Unvaccinated persons are more likely to get infected and spread the virus, which is transmitted through the air. Most current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated persons. Thanks to vaccinations and to measures taken since March 2020, California’s health care system is currently able to address the increase in cases and hospitalizations. However, additional statewide facility-directed measures are necessary to protect particularly vulnerable populations, and ensure a sufficient, consistent supply of workers in high-risk health care settings.
Hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and the other health care facility types identified in this order are particularly high-risk settings where COVID-19 outbreaks can have severe consequences for vulnerable populations including hospitalization, severe illness, and death. Further, the settings in this order share several features. There is frequent exposure to staff and highly vulnerable patients, including elderly, chronically ill, critically ill, medically fragile, and disabled patients. In many of these settings, the patients are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions, advanced age, or both.
Vaccinations have been available in California from December 2020 to the present, and from January 1, 2021, to July 12, 2021, a total of 9,371 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks and 113,196 outbreak-related cases were reported to CDPH. Increasing numbers of health care workers are among the new positive cases, despite vaccinations being prioritized for this group when vaccines initially became available. Recent outbreaks in health care settings have frequently been traced to unvaccinated staff members.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective means of preventing infection with the COVID-19 virus, and subsequent transmission and outbreaks. As we respond to the dramatic increase in cases, all health care workers must be vaccinated to reduce the chance of transmission to vulnerable populations.
For these reasons, COVID-19 remains a concern to public health and, in order to prevent its further spread in hospitals, SNFs, and other health care settings, new public health requirements are necessary at this time.”
The Culver City Unified School District, located about 10 miles southwest of Los Angeles, similarly mandated vaccines for all eligible students and staff members on Tuesday, making the district one of the first in the nation to do so. “We are mandating vaccines for all eligible staff and students. We will begin gathering vaccine status data immediately,” Superintendent Quoc Tran tweeted. “ The deadline for providing the proof of vaccine is Friday, November 19, 2021, to give everyone the opportunity to make their vaccine plans.”
The state of Washington and city school districts in Chicago and Los Angeles have similarly required all teachers and staff members to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment. “We are well past the point where testing is enough to keep people safe,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We’ve tried it. It has not been adequate for the task at hand.”