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Watch: Newsom announces new state actions amid growing omicron concerns

Governor Gavin Newsom announced new state actions, including a booster mandate for healthcare workers, during a news conference Wednesday morning.

By February 1, 2022, health care workers and all employees in high-risk congregate settings, including nursing homes, will be required to get their booster. In the interim, all health care staff that have not received their booster must test for COVID-19 twice weekly until they are up to date on their vaccines. 

The state is also increasing the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests across California so K-12 public-school students can be tested as they return to school from winter break.

“As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country and circulates in all regions of the state, we’re taking immediate, proactive steps to protect Californians with boosters and expanded access to testing,” said Governor Newsom. “The state is also redoubling our efforts to  keep kids safe and keep schools open. We will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by making at-home testing kits available to every K-12 public school student as they head back to the classroom from winter break.”

Newsom also announced that the state will expand antigen test availability and expand hours of operation at state-sponsored OptumServe sites that are already at capacity. CDPH is distributing an additional 6 million tests to community partners serving disproportionately impacted Californians and 4 million to local health jurisdictions.

You can watch the full announcement below:

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California has so far fared far better than many other states. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists California as a place with “high” transmission of the virus, along with nearly everywhere else in the country. But in the last week California averaged 114 new cases per 100,000 people, less than half the national rate.

While 70% of Californians have been fully vaccinated, that still leaves 30% — or roughly 12 million people — who haven’t been. The California Department of Public Health says people who are not vaccinated are seven times more likely to get infected, nearly 13 times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly 16 times more likely to die from the coronavirus.

Coronavirus related hospitalizations have been rising slowly in California, up 15% in the last 11 days to 3,852. That’s less than half as many as during the late summer peak and one-fifth of a year ago, before vaccines were widely available.

But while hospitals overall have fewer patients than last winter, many have fewer workers to treat the patients they do have. The staffing shortage comes as businesses are having trouble finding workers, including hospitals. A recent study by the University of California-San Francisco estimated the state’s nursing shortage could persist until 2026.

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