CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Dec. 27, 2021) — This week, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has enacted a new health order requiring county first responders and workers in homeless shelters to verify they have received a booster dose of vaccine. Concern that the county’s health system might become overwhelmed by the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 prompted the move.
This requirement applies within the county to law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who work in or may respond to emergency calls at high-risk facilities such as hospitals, jails, nursing or congregate care facilities. It also applies to all workers in homeless shelters. In addition, non-emergency ambulance workers who provide medical transport for such facilities must also comply.
The order, which takes effect on January 10, requires unboosted workers to test weekly with either a PCR or antigen test for COVID-19.
“The omicron variant is much more infectious than previous strains of COVID-19,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County health officer. “Boosting is necessary for the best protection from omicron infection and transmission. Our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed if a large number of our must vulnerable residents get sick. Our goal is to ramp up the protection around places where there is an elevated risk of exposure, and people who are at high risk of serious illness if they become infected.”
Testing or proof of vaccination
The order requires applicable workers to test weekly for COVID-19 and provide the results to their employers, or if fully vaccinated, provide proof that they have received a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine within one month of becoming eligible. Employers are required to keep vaccination records for these employees.
Anyone 16 or older is eligible for a booster dose six months after they become fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months after they receive a dose of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine.
On Dec. 22, California added a similar statewide requirement for healthcare workers, home care workers, and employees of congregate care and detention facilities.
First cases in Contra Costa
Omicron is already the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. The average daily number of newly detected COVID-19 cases in the county has risen about 156% in the past week with an average of 313 new cases per day, a trend expected to continue and potentially accelerate throughout California this winter.
Contra Costa identified the county’s first patients infected by this variant last week – two of the three initial cases were fully vaccinated, but none of them had received booster doses.
About 36% of Contra Costa residents age 16 and older have gotten a booster dose, which reduces risk of infection from the omicron variant and dramatically reduces risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death from all variants of COVID-19.
The text of the order is available at cchealth.org/coronavirus.