Vaccinated Or Not, LAUSD Requiring Weekly Covid Testing For All Returning On-Site Students And Employees
[guest post by Dana]
This is sure to draw ire from any number of Los Angeles Unified School District parents:
The Los Angeles Unified School District will require all students and employees who are returning for in-person instruction to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing — regardless of vaccination status, the district announced Thursday.
“This is in accordance with the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said in a statement.
LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, had previously said that fully vaccinated students and employees would not require testing. But as schools district-wide prepare to reopen for in-person instruction on Aug. 16, L.A. Unified said it’s closely monitoring evolving health conditions and adapting its response.
In addition to regular testing, safety measures will include: masking for all students, staff and visitors; maximizing physical distancing as much as possible; continuing comprehensive sanitizing efforts, including frequent hand washing; upgraded air filtration systems; and collaborating with health partners and agencies to support free COVID-19 vaccination.
In California, if students want to attend public school, private schools, or daycare, they must be immunized against 10 serious communicable diseases: diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae Type B (bacterial meningitis), measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox. Vaccination laws only apply at specific times: upon entering child care, transitional kindergarten/kindergarten or 7th grade, or when transferring into schools or child care from out of state or out of the country. Otherwise, the immunization status of students is not an issue.
If Covid-19 vaccines were mandated for school children, the question then becomes, will parents be allowed to opt-out of immunizing their children based solely on their personal beliefs? The answer to that is still unknown, given that there is not yet an approved Covid-19 vaccine for children 12 years and under, and it depends on which State entity adds Covid-19 vaccine to the list of mandated vaccines for schoolchildren:
Currently, flu, HPV and COVID-19 vaccinations are not required for California students under Senate Bill 277…
Once the vaccines are fully approved for young children, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will consider adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the schedule of mandated shots.
That means there are currently no personal belief exemptions for these vaccinations, because they are not mandated in the first place. At the moment, parents can choose whether to vaccinate their children against these diseases.
But if those vaccinations were to be added to the state’s list of mandatory shots, experts say a personal belief exemption may not apply — depending on how the new vaccines are added to the list.
Dorit Reiss, a professor of law at UC Hastings and a member of the Vaccine Working Group on Ethics and Policy, said the law included a clause that allows the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to mandate new vaccinations.
If vaccinations are added to the schedule in this way, the law stipulates that personal belief exemptions must be offered to parents and students.
“New vaccines required — like COVID, flu, HPV — will have a [personal belief exemption] if, and only if, the department of health adds them without going through the legislature,” Reiss said. “If the Legislature adds them, the Legislature will set the terms.”
That means that the state Legislature could choose to pass legislation that adds a vaccination to the current list without offering a personal belief exemption.
“The Legislature may at any time amend or pass a new statute to add a required immunization,” said Brandon Stracener, a senior research fellow at UC Berkeley Law School’s California Constitution Center. “This additional restriction on the department, an executive regulatory agency, reflects a balance between the greater speed with which agencies can react and the more direct voter accountability legislators face.”
Reiss said the CDPH has yet to add a vaccination of its own to the list since SB 277 passed in 2015.
“I expect that if it’s added, it would be added by the legislature,” she said. “That’s how all currently mandated vaccines were added. I think the CDPH would be very cautious of the political implications if it went at this without legislative mandate.”
That means there likely would not be a personal belief exemption.
“The [CDPH] could attempt to deem coronavirus an appropriate disease under these statutes to require immunization,” Stracener said. “But the legislature might have to respond itself if a large enough number of asserted personal belief exemptions made it clear that the legislature would have to act to ensure public safety.”
Along with no philosophical opt-out for immunizations in California, the Ca. Health & Safety Code (§ 120325 et seq.) also notes there is no religious exemption as well.