Updated July 30, 2021 - 9:56 pm
CARSON CITY — Nevada will require its 27,000-plus state workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular weekly testing under an order issued Friday by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
The move follows similar rules in other states and the federal government amid efforts to fight COVID-19 and transmission of the disease’s latest more contagious variant.
The effective date is Aug. 15. Employees not fully vaccinated will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests with proof of testing and results submitted to their human resources officer or department supervisor.
“The vaccine is the best tool we have to combat this virus and we are committed to making State government a safe and healthy environment for all employees and the public we are charged with serving,” Gov. Sisolak said in a statement Friday.
“State employees have always led by example, and I remain confident they will continue to step up and follow these new mitigation strategies that will enable us to better protect each other and the fellow Nevadans we serve.”
California, New Mexico and New York have announced similar measures for their public employees, as has New York City, with effective dates as soon as Sunday. President Joe Biden announced a similar policy covering all federal workers and contractors Thursday. In California, the largest public employee union has signaled it will challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order.
In the state’s July 21 COVID-19 status briefing, health officials indicated that a policy on vaccination and testing for state workers was in the works, to be implemented in mid-August. State government workplaces that reach 70 percent vaccination rates may discontinue weekly testing protocols, but masks will continue to be required for unvaccinated workers. State workers in counties with more restrictive measures will have to follow local rules.
The new guidelines come as the more contagious and severe delta variant of the coronavirus has boosted infection numbers throughout the nation, and amid persistently sluggish vaccination rates. Data tracked by the state shows 57 percent of Nevada’s 12-and-older population have received at least one shot and 47.4 percent are fully vaccinated. That lags the U.S. average, where 67 percent of the 12-and-older population have had at least one shot and 58 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nevada’s vaccination rates vary widely by region, with the highest rates in Washoe County and Carson City and the lowest in the state’s 14 rural counties. In Storey County, just 15.9 percent of the 12-and-older population are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate in the state, followed by Eureka County at 24.4 percent and Elko County at 29.3 percent, according to state data.
The fully vaccinated rate for 12 and older in Clark County is 46.4 percent. In Washoe and Carson City, it hovers around 57 percent.
Since June 1, when infection metrics reached their lowest levels in more than a year, hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Nevada have more than quintupled, average daily cases have increased sixfold, the average positivity test rate has gone from 3.8 percent to 14 percent, and average daily deaths have more than tripled, from two to seven.
The finalized vaccination policy for state workers comes as the state’s mandate for mask-wearing in public settings returns for areas classified at high risk of spread — currently 12 of 17 counties, including Washoe, Clark and Carson City.
All state employees in those high-risk areas must wear a mask while on duty.
The state is giving employees up to four hours of paid leave to get themselves or dependent children vaccinated.