San Jose leaders approve new booster shot mandate
Requirement applies to about 7,000 employees
Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant, San Jose is about to become the first city in California to require all of its employees to get a booster shot in addition to the initial vaccine doses mandated earlier.
The City Council on Jan. 11 also adopted a new ordinance requiring visitors of large, indoor events staged at public facilities such as the SAP Center and San Jose Convention Center to show proof they received a booster shot — or at least submit a negative COVID-19 test — before entering.
Though other jurisdictions like Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties have enacted booster mandates for certain front-line employees such as first responders and health care workers, San Jose’s order will apply to its full workforce of about 7,000 people, as well as any new hires.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, who unveiled the booster mandate for public venue visitors and employees in late December, said both orders are designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization.
“That is a great public health benefit for all of us, particularly as we’re concerned about capacity at hospitals,” he said on Jan. 11.
In a tweet later that evening, Liccardo thanked his fellow council members for unanimously approving the booster mandate for all employees, saying the city “leads the U.S. (with) this
measure to avoid high hospitalizations and tragic outcomes.”
City spokesperson Carolina Camarena said on Jan. 12 that city administrators still are negotiating details of the requirement with the various labor unions and that no deadline for compliance has been set yet.
City employees are currently
required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. Those who refused to follow the earlier mandate and weren’t granted medical or religious exemptions faced a weeklong unpaid suspension. As of last month, only
six employees had received notices of discipline for violating the vaccination order.
Liccardo said in a previous interview he expected those who refuse the city’s new booster mandate to face similar consequences.
“I do hope that people really heed the warnings,”
Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco said. “If we haven’t learned anything in the past two years, I don’t know what to say. But I’m a huge believer in the vaccine and the booster.”
Meanwhile, the city’s booster shot mandate for entrance to public facilities actually waters down a previous vaccine order by allowing people who are 12 or older and unvaccinated to visit city-owned facilities for the first time in nearly four months if they show proof of a negative test.
Camarena said the city’s amended policy is meant to align with state and federal guidance.
“As things are quickly evolving during the pandemic, we’re learning and we are also evolving,” she said.
The new ordinance replaces the city’s previous hard-and-fast rule that required attendees of events of more than 50 people at city-owned facilities to show proof of full vaccination — one shot for Johnson & Johnson and two for Pfizer or Moderna recipients — before entering. At that time, a negative COVID-19 test was not accepted as a substitute for vaccination.
The new order, which provides a testing option for unvaccinated attendees or those not yet eligible for a booster shot, will take effect Feb. 4, according to Dolan Becker, the city’s director of civic innovation. It applies to all events of 50 or more people at city-owned facilities, including City Hall, city libraries, the SAP Center, the Center for Performing Arts and the city’s public theaters.
Scott Emmert, spokesperson for Sharks Sports & Entertainment, said the organization, which runs the SAP center, has been in touch with city staffers but is “waiting on the process to be formalized before finalizing any implementation plans.”
Since Sept. 20, the SAP center has required all attendees ages 12 and older show proof of full vaccination before entering the entertainment facility.
Those under the age of 12 could enter without a test or proof of vaccination.