SACRAMENTO – The California state Capitol has reinstated its mask mandate for all legislators and staff regardless of vaccination status after an outbreak of nine new COVID-19 cases was reported among employees last week.
Effective immediately, masks will have to be worn in the Capitol, Legislative Office Building and district offices, Secretary of the Senate Erika Contreras and Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert wrote in Tuesday memos.
Unvaccinated members and employees will also be required to get tested for the virus twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, beginning July 8. The rapid antigen testing will be conducted in the Capitol from 7 to 9 a.m.
Vaccinated members are also encouraged to get tested if they want. Four of the nine recent cases were among those who’ve been fully vaccinated.
The Senate has a fully vaccinated rate of 85% among all its employees, according to Contreras. The Assembly has reported an 84% rate, Gravert said. Members and staff had previously been asked to submit their vaccination status to Capitol Health Services.
Breakthrough cases are rare, but expected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting vaccinated, however, often protects individuals from severe illness and death.
“As we know from these most recent cases, even fully vaccinated individuals can be infected with COVID-19,” Contreras wrote in her memo to senators and staff. “However, public health experts indicate that fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to suffer the most serious symptoms of COVID-19, and for this reason, the Senate continues to encourage all staff to protect themselves by receiving the vaccine.”
The new rules come less than a month after the Capitol reopened its doors to more members of the public and began lifting some pandemic rules.
The California Department of Public Health recommended the testing and mask changes after the Assembly reported the nine new infections. At least seven of those infected reportedly worked in the same Assembly office, which has not been identified.
The workers had recently been in the Capitol, though they reportedly wore masks while in the building. The memos said they were adhering to quarantine recommendations, and those who had been in close contact with them were notified and tested.
The state’s COVID-19 labor rules also require certain immediate action like testing and mandatory quarantining once more than three cases are reported in a workplace within 14 days.