State Sen. Josh Becker and East Palo Alto City Council member Antonio Lopez called on school districts to mandate vaccines for its employees during a joint press conference hosted at the Ravenswood Family Health Center on Tuesday.
"As we prepare to send our kids back to school, as my wife and I prepare to send our kids back to our public schools, now is the moment for us to create a wall of safety around our kids," Becker, D-Menlo Park, said during the morning event in East Palo Alto.
This academic year, most students are expected to return to the classroom, a move that local, state and federal health officials have urged given the learning loss as well as other health and economic burdens that come with distance learning.
But the urgency to get back inside the classroom also comes as COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise, particularly due to the more infectious delta variant. Eight Bay Area county health officers reinstated mask mandates in indoor settings starting Tuesday.
All the while, children under 12 years old are still not cleared to receive any of the available vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to the virus.
During the news conference, Becker suggested schools should aim to get 100% of their staff inoculated.
"Even if 80%, 90% of teachers and staff are vaccinated, what if your kid is interacting with the other 10% to 20%?" Becker said. "So let's put our kids first."
The senator also added that he has recently heard of several COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, including at Brentwood Union School District in Contra Costa County.
California and Santa Clara County so far have been reluctant to implement a vaccination mandate outside of their own public employees, instead sticking with recommendations to implement them in the workplace, for example.
On July 26, the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1.7 million educators across the nation, according to its website, issued a press release that stated vaccinations should "be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced."
Some universities and local school districts are already requiring teachers and students to be vaccinated before they come to campus this fall.
Stanford University announced its decision to do so in late April; the Foothill-De Anza Community College District board of trustees adopted a vaccine mandate for its students and employees in June; and San Jose Unified School District, the largest school district in Santa Clara County, announced on July 27 that it will require teachers and staff to be vaccinated or tested twice a week for COVID-19.
Lopez said on Tuesday that he has not yet had conversations with the Ravenswood City School District regarding its vaccination progress, but followed Becker in urging everyone to get the vaccine.
"We are now largely vaccinated," Lopez said, referring to the East Palo Alto population. "But we are not done."