A judge temporarily blocked an order on Wednesday that required California prison workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Kern County Judge Bernard Barmann issued a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of the mandate as the court considers a preliminary injunction request.
The vaccine mandate was scheduled to take effect Friday. It will continue to apply to other employees who work in state prisons with health care facilities.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) has opposed vaccine mandates across the state. The union represents about 28,000 officers statewide.
“Mandating universal vaccination of staff, on the other hand, at this point in time, seems at odds with the dramatic reduction in COVID-19 infection rates within the prisons, and throughout the State generally, in recent months,” The CCPOA said in its preliminary submission (pdf).
“The Court should resist Plaintiffs’ request that staff be subjected to a mandatory vaccination order,” the submission added.
The state plans to appeal the ruling.
“On August 19, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an order for paid and unpaid individuals who are regularly assigned to provide health care or health care services to incarcerated people, prisoners, or detainees to show evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 by October 14, 2021, unless they qualify for an accommodation based on a sincerely held religious beliefs or due to qualifying medical reason(s),” according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
A CDCR report noted that as of Sept. 10, 240 inmate deaths and 39 prison employees in California have died from COVID-19.
A total of 50,991 total coronavirus cases have been confirmed among inmates and employees. Over the last 14 days, however, just 178 new cases have been reported.
The high number of inmate cases led to the expedited release of many California inmates. In April 2020 “almost 3,500 incarcerated persons serving a sentence for non-violent offenses, who do not have to register as a sex offender, and who had 60 days or less to serve” were released.
The efforts were aimed at creating additional space as California prisons sought ways to lower COVID-19 positive cases.
The case continues as California continues to increase the groups required to receive COVID-19 vaccination. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, previously announced vaccine requirements for state workers and teachers, including state firefighters and police officers. Those who do not must be tested frequently to avoid termination.
Earlier in October, Newsom also announced new requirements for students 12 years old and above to received COVID-19 vaccines to attend public schools once the vaccinations receive FDA approval for the age group.
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