By Carol Vaughn —
All Virginia state employees will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by Sept. 1 or they will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test weekly.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the mandate during a briefing Thursday.
“That’s who I have control over,” Northam said of the mandate, which covers around 122,000 state employees.
Northam encouraged local governments and private companies in Virginia to follow suit.
Noting the increased transmissibility of the delta variant over other forms of the virus, Northam said research still shows “vaccinations work — it’s that simple.”
Nearly everyone who died as result of COVID-19 was not vaccinated, he said, noting, “For most adults this is now a preventable disease.”
Around 72% to 73% of state employees already have been vaccinated, according to Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson.
Northam’s action comes as the delta variant is driving up cases across Virginia and around the United States, mainly among unvaccinated people.
President Joe Biden recently announced a vaccination requirement for federal workers.
Nearly 73% of Virginia adults have had one vaccine shot, and 54% of all Virginians are fully vaccinated, which is higher than most states, in particular in the South.
“The only way to end this pandemic is to for everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Northam said in a press release, adding, “As head of state government, we have a responsibility to lead by example and ensure the safety of our employees and the people they serve. The three vaccines are safe, effective, free, and widely available, and I strongly urge every eligible Virginian to get their shot. The time for waiting is over.”
Around 13,000 Virginians a day are getting vaccinated at present, according to Northam.
Northam in the briefing also said he expects school districts to follow a law passed by the General Assembly in March, which said schools are to offer in-person instruction five days a week and are to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Those guidelines recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, among other measures to prevent spread of the virus, including social distancing, good ventilation indoors, hand washing, and staying home when sick.
“Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the guidelines, which were updated Aug. 4.
The updated CDC guidelines also added a recommendation that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 be tested three to five days after the exposure, whether or not they develop symptoms.
Northam noted the vaccine has not yet been approved for use in children under 12.
The Virginia Department of Health confirmed Thursday a child between 10 and 19 in the Eastern Region died from complications of COVID-19 — the first reported death of a child in the Eastern Region from COVID-19.
Virginians who have not been vaccinated may go to vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) to find a nearby vaccination location. For answers to frequently asked questions or to learn more about vaccination for COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine