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California federal court announces vaccine mandate for workers

The mandate allows for medical and religious exemptions, but unvaccinated workers will have to undergo regular testing.

(CN) — The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California now requires all employees, volunteers and judiciary contractors working onsite be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Kiry Gray, the clerk of the court, issued the policy on Friday. The announcement referred to the mandate as “necessary to combat the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health and safety of the court’s employees, volunteers and contractors, as well as members of the public and others within the court’s community.”

The announcement comes the same day California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the nation’s first Covid-19 immunization requirements for K-12 students and weeks after President Joe Biden announced a sweeping federal mandate that would require over 80 million Americans in the private and public sector to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or be tested weekly.

The Central District will require all employees — including judges and chambers staff — along with volunteers and onsite judiciary contractors to complete a vaccination attestation form confirming their vaccination status by Oct. 15. Those seeking an exemption for medical or religious reasons must submit their exemption requests by Oct. 15.

Future employees and volunteers must complete the attestation form or the exemption request at least one week before their start date.

Workers who have approved exemptions or are waiting for an exemption request decision must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days before the date they return in-person to a court facility. They subsequently must undergo Covid-19 testing twice per week. Unvaccinated employees must receive approval from the court unit executive or chief judge in order to travel outside the district for work.

All workers, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to conduct a daily self-assessment for Covid-19 symptoms and get tested for Covid-19 if they exhibit any symptoms.

There are varying Covid-19 protocols and requirements at different federal courts, resulting in a patchwork of guidance for the 30,000 employees of the federal judiciary.

Of the four federal district courts in California, only the Central District has instituted a vaccine mandate for all workers at its facilities, which include its courthouses in Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Ana. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, also has a vaccine mandate for court staff.

The Central District's policy mirrors that of Courthouse News Service.

Representatives from the court did not return a request for comment before publication.

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