SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Sonoma County officials on Wednesday issued a health order calling for all fire, law enforcement and emergency medical service workers and staff at disaster shelters to be get vaccinated.

Officials said if proof of vaccination is not available, workers would be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

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The new mandate for all fire, law enforcement, EMS and disaster shelter staff will take effect on September 1st. It expands on a California Department of Public Health order requiring health care and congregate facility staff to be vaccinated or regularly tested if unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, on August 17th, county staff will be presenting a policy to the Board of Supervisors for consideration that would extend the same requirements to all 4,470 county workers.

In addressing these changes announced Wednesday, Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase strongly recommended that all employers require workers to provide proof of full vaccination for COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Workers who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to show proof of vaccination should be required to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

“By requiring County employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, we are setting an example for other employers to follow,” Dr. Mase said. “The vaccine is safe, effective, free and needed now more than ever. The Delta variant is a much more aggressive and contagious form of COVID and is at the root of much of our recent surge in cases. The vaccine is the best tool that we have to combat it.”

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The measures come as COVID cases have increased to their highest levels since February, particularly in unvaccinated populations. As of Wednesday, Sonoma County’s new cases per day per 100,000 residents was 36.4 among unvaccinated individuals and 8.0 among vaccinated residents for an overall case rate of 19.6 per 100,000.

There are currently 61 COVID patients in Sonoma County hospitals including 21 in intensive care. Meanwhile, Sonoma County has fully vaccinated 71% of residents 12 and older while another 8% have been partially vaccinated.

“I support the requirement that all law enforcement, fire, EMS and disaster shelter staff get vaccinated or receive regular COVID testing,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick. “Our personnel is at higher risk of exposure to COVID because of their work environment and the people they serve. It is important for them to be monitored and protected so they can stay healthy.”

On Monday, Sonoma County and six other Bay Area counties as well as the City of Berkeley issued health orders requiring the wearing of facial coverings in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.

“We could end this pandemic if everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated would just roll up their sleeves and get the shot,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “Masks are still a valuable tool to stop the spread of COVID, but they are no substitute for getting vaccinated. So please get vaccinated to keep yourself and your community safe.”

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A growing number of corporations including Google, Disney, and Walmart have begun mandating that their employees show proof of vaccination to protect against the spread of COVID-19. A number of local businesses have done the same including some restaurants, which have begun requiring proof of vaccination from customers before being allowed to dine indoors. Dr. Mase applauded this new practice at certain establishments.