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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Marking a major change in California’s COVID-19 pandemic measures and education policy, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced students ages 12 and older in the state will have to be vaccinated to continue attending school in person, once the Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the vaccine.

Newsom said they will work with districts and parents in the meantime to build confidence with communities and figure out the logistics for administering the vaccinations. Students who are not vaccinated will go into independent study, according to news reports.

“We will begin to apply that requirement in the next term—either Jan. 1 or July 1, whichever comes sooner,” Newsom said during the announcement on Friday, Oct. 1. “Concurrent with that, we also want to see all of our (K-12 school) staff—paraprofessionals, not just teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff, and the like, folks that really make the school system operational—get vaccinated as well.”

That requirement will also go into effect once the FDA gives full approval. Currently, all public school employees in the state are required to either be vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19.

“We hope this encourages folks to get vaccinated,” Newsom said. “We have no trepidation, no hesitancy, in encouraging local school districts to move forward more expeditiously. You’ve seen that in a number of districts in the state that have moved forward more quickly.”

Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District have already instituted vaccine mandates for eligible students. Capistrano Unified School District has not.

“I believe we will be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement, but I do not believe—by any stretch of the imagination—we’ll be the last state,” Newsom said. “In fact, I anticipate other states to follow suit as well.”

Exemptions will be in place for medical, religious, and personal belief reasons.

Newsom recently beat a recall attempt, which partly arose over his vocal support for pandemic restrictions and measures.

Masks are required statewide indoors at school campuses.

In other pandemic news, Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau recently issued a revised local health order that includes updated guidelines—particularly that people exposed to COVID-19 and not fully vaccinated are allowed a 7-day quarantine with testing or 10-day quarantine without testing.

Orange County Health Care Agency reports that COVID-19 cases are on the decline in Orange County. California continues to have the lowest COVID-19 rate in the country.

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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