COVID Clash: Newsom and Some CA Dems At Odds Over Next Phase of Mandates

As the governor’s administration prepares to unveil parts of its ”endemic strategy,” some Democratic lawmakers are proposing stricter mandates

As Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration prepares to unveil parts of its “endemic strategy”— as soon as Monday—some Democratic lawmakers are doubling down with their COVID mandates.

Newsom announced last week that California would lift its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents on Feb. 15. The governor also suggested the possibility of removing the state’s school mask mandate, but said that teachers unions aren’t ready and have “asked for a little bit more time.” Additionally, Los Angeles’ Public Health Director, Barbara Ferrer, said the county would ease its mask mandate for outdoor mega-events and outdoors at schools and childcare centers should the number of COVID-positive patients continue to decline and remain below 2,500 for seven consecutive days.

But as Californians wait to hear Newsom’s anticipated plans to ease COVID regulations, some Democratic lawmakers are proposing for stricter mandates.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) proposed a bill Friday that would require employees and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID as a condition of employment unless they have a medical or religious exemption. Businesses would face unspecified financial penalties for not complying.

“Keeping our communities safe is our top charge as elected officials,” Wicks said. “And we know that none of us want to go back to closing down schools or closing down businesses … We know if we’re vaccinated, we can combat this.” Wicks also said lawmakers are considering introducing a vaccine-related mandate for people entering businesses.

Wicks’ bill is the latest proposal to come from a vaccine work group of Democratic lawmakers, Patch reports. The group has also proposed requiring students to get vaccinated against COVID except for those granted rare medical exemptions, allowing children 12 and older to get the jab without parental consent, and granting schools access to check students’ vaccination status in the state’s private immunization database.

Should these proposals pass the state Legislature, it would be Newsom’s call to decide whether to sign them into law.

As of Sunday, L.A. County had reported 4,889 new COVID-cases and 58 COVID-related deaths, according to county data. The number of COVID-positive patients at county hospitals—2,806 as of Saturday—has remained below 2,500 for five days, NBC Los Angeles reports.

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