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California ends COVID testing mandates for unvaccinated workers

California has modified coronavirus testing requirements for unvaccinated workers in schools, health care facilities and other congregate settings, the latest rule to be rolled back as the state enters what officials say is a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic. pandemic.

The changes, which took effect Saturday, mean employees in those fields who have not completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations will no longer need to undergo weekly testing.

Unvaccinated state employees who work in “non-high-risk locations” also do not need to be tested weekly, according to to a note from the California Department of Human Resources.

Such surveillance assessment once represented an important pillar of California’s pandemic response. However, the benefits of the practice have become less pronounced, as a result of both relatively widespread vaccination coverage and the proliferation of hyperinfectious Omicron subvariants.

“We have entered a phase of the pandemic where the majority of people in these workplaces are vaccinated, and our youngest Californians are now eligible for vaccination as well, protecting all of our communities from serious illness, hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, director of the California Department of Public Health. “While unvaccinated people remain at highest risk of serious health consequences from COVID-19 infection, weekly testing of unvaccinated groups no longer slows the spread as they did earlier in the pandemic due to to the most infectious variants of Omicron”.

Although the state has eliminated the weekly testing requirement, health officials still encourage schools and employers to “continue to provide testing resources to staff and students to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout communities,” according to a statement. of the California Department of Public Affairs. Health.

“Vaccination and testing are two key measures that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as is masking and improved indoor ventilation,” the statement continued.

Since Omicron’s initial surge faded this spring, many efforts focused primarily on preventing transmission, such as mandatory masking and regular testing, have gone by the wayside.

While the state still strongly recommends wearing masks indoors, the vast majority of Californians have not been required to do so since late last winter, except in select places like health care facilities, correctional facilities, and shelters. emergency or homeless.

Officials regularly acknowledge that as conditions change, so should the public health response. In Los Angeles County, for example, transmission has slowed to the point that officials could waive the local mask-wearing requirement for indoor public transportation settings, including airport terminals, buses, subways, train stations. train and shared transport services, in a matter of weeks.

That’s not to say the situation can’t be reversed, especially heading into the fall and winter, when another wave of coronavirus is possible.

But given the protection vaccines provide, as well as the availability of effective therapies and up-to-date boosters, officials and experts say California has plenty of tools to combat a potential resurgence.

“This is a hopeful moment in the COVID pandemic, with the [World Health Organization] noting that, with continued attention to reducing risk and increasing vaccination coverage, there is a chance to end the pandemic,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a recent briefing. “In Los Angeles County, the risk is lower than it was for much of the summer, and as we head into this fall with these updated booster doses, we know we have an opportunity to reduce the likelihood of overwhelming our health care system with another winter surge.”

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