SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County health officials announced Tuesday that COVID vaccine boosters would be required for healthcare workers and workers in other high-risk congregate settings under a new health order.

The announcement comes as COVID cases surge in the county, driven by the spread of the omicron variant.

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“Less than two weeks ago, I warned of a deluge of omicron, and today, unfortunately, that deluge is here,” said county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody at a press conference Tuesday. “Our cases here in Santa Clara County are spiking and the majority of them are omicron.”

Raw Video: Santa Clara County health officials announce COVID booster requirement for high-risk groups

Cody said that over the past two weeks both the number of COVID cases and the case rate have tripled in the county. While hospitalizations have not yet increased sharply along with the spike in cases, Cody said they are often a lagging indicator and the order is meant to absorb the expected demand coming to the county’s health care system.

She also encouraged everyone to continue taking safety precautions like wearing masks and staying socially distanced when possible, and advised people to avoid any large gatherings for the upcoming New Year’s Eve holiday.

“Even though we’re all a little weary, we are asking everyone to continue to do their part,” Cody said.

As of Tuesday, 52 percent of those eligible in the county have received their booster shot, with about 67 percent of those 65 and up having received the booster, she said.

Santa Clara County COVID Dashboard

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Last week, the state required all healthcare workers, home care workers, and employees of congregate care and detention facilities to receive their booster shots. The county’s order requires workers in these settings to be up-to-date with vaccinations and booster by January 24 rather than the state deadline of February 1.

Santa Clara County joins other Bay Area counties in adopting a booster mandate for workers in high-risk groups.

The order applies to:

• skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, adult daycare facilities, and memory care facilities;
• healthcare delivery facilities (such as hospitals, clinics, medical offices, dialysis centers) where patient care is provided, as well as medical first responders;
• jails and other correctional facilities
• congregate shelters

In addition to requiring up-to-date vaccination in higher-risk settings, the health order also issued the following recommendations:

• Everyone should get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 now if they have not done so already.
• Unless everyone is wearing face masks at all times, individuals should not gather indoors in groups of more than 10 people from outside their household.
• Employers should immediately implement mandatory vaccination requirements for all personnel that require up-to-date vaccination as quickly as possible.
• Businesses and other entities should move operations and activities outdoors where possible, where there is significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission. Where this is not possible, ventilation should be maximized.
• Businesses that serve the public, especially those with activities that require patrons to remove their face mask to engage in the business (e.g., restaurants and bars), should require their patrons to be up-to-date on their vaccination and show proof of up-to-date vaccination prior to entry.

Everyone over 16 who got their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations more than six months ago or their Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago is eligible for a booster and should get one right away.

Information on vaccination and booster appointments are available at www.sccfreevax.org. Vaccinations are available for free, insurance is not required, and they are available regardless of immigration status.

The August 2 health order requiring universal indoor masking remains in effect throughout Santa Clara County.

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