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California becomes second state to require booster shots for health care workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the requirement is part of a broader plan that will be detailed Wednesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that California will require health care workers to get Covid vaccination booster shots, part of a broader plan to combat the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

"With Omicron on the rise, we’re taking immediate actions to protect Californians and ensure our hospitals are prepared," Newsom, a Democrat, said on Twitter, adding that he would provide details of the overall strategy Wednesday.

California will become the second state to mandate booster shots for health care workers. New Mexico issued a similar order this month, requiring health care workers to get booster doses no later than Jan. 17.

Many states have required health care workers to get vaccinated; New Mexico was the first to mandate booster shots.

A federal appeals court last week revived the Biden administration's vaccination requirement for health care workers employed by facilities that receive federal funding. But the administration's rule is on hold in about half of the states because of a legal challenge.

California had the first confirmed U.S. case of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus at the beginning of December. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention said at the time that the person "was a traveler who returned from South Africa" on Nov. 22.

Since then, the variant has spread quickly across the country. It had accounted for more than 73 percent of new cases as of Friday, according to the CDC.

President Joe Biden announced earlier Tuesday that the federal government will set up new testing sites nationwide, along with plans to ship as many as 500 million at-home test kits starting next month.

He also urged people to get booster shots if they're eligible, warning that those who haven't been vaccinated face an ongoing risk of severe illness.

"If you're not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned" about the new variant, Biden said in an address from the White House. "You're at a high risk of getting sick. And if you get sick, you're likely to spread it to others, including friends and family."

But, he added, "if you're among the majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated, and especially if you've gotten the booster shot, that third shot, you have much, much less reason to worry. You have a high degree of protection against severe illness."