Doctors intubate a coronavirus patient in the COVID-19 ICU at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo on Friday. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

In a first for the nation, all workers in healthcare facilities across California will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under an order issued Thursday by the state Department of Public Health.

The state had previously announced that workers in healthcare settings had the option of either being vaccinated or undergoing weekly COVID- 19 testing. The new order eliminates the testing option and mandates vaccinations.

“As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” Dr. Tomas J. Aragon, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement.

“Today’s action will also ensure that healthcare workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic,” he said.

Under the order, all workers in healthcare settings must be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose of vaccine by Sept. 30.

The state issued a companion order Thursday directing all hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities to verify that visitors are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID within 72 hours of an indoor visit.

The order was praised by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, whose president, Sal Rosselli, said,” Gov. Newsom’s first-in-the-nation requirement that all workers in healthcare settings get vaccinated by Sept. 30 unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption is a strong act of leadership that will save lives and make hospitals safe for patients and caregivers.”

Similar rules are expected to be issued later for visitors at long-term care facilities.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.