California judge blocks COVID vaccine order for prison guards

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A Kern County Superior Court judge on Thursday granted a request by the state prison guards union to block a vaccination warrant that was due to go into effect on Friday.

Judge Bernard Barmann issued a temporary restraining order that partially prevents the state from enforcing an August 19 Department of Public Health order that required all employees – including correctional officers – who work in or around prison health care facilities are fully immunized by October 14. .

“What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to put someone in a situation where something happens to them that is truly irremediable,” Barmann said Thursday, referring to the vaccination in a court discussion which was broadcast online.

Two hundred and forty inmates and 39 prison staff have died from COVID-19. Sixty percent of employees in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are vaccinated, according to a department’s website.

The state ordinance of Aug. 19 tightened pre-vaccination requirements by eliminating the ability for some employees to get tested twice a week instead of being vaccinated.

It was one of two vaccination orders affecting prison workers. The other came from US District Judge Jon S. Tigar in Oakland on September 27.

Tigar’s order aligned with a recommendation from Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso, who oversees medical care in California prisons. He demanded that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation develop a plan to vaccinate all prison employees within two weeks.

The department, working with the receiver, submitted a three-page immunization plan on Tuesday that would require all employees to be fully immunized by November 29, with progressive discipline beginning November 15 for all employees who fail. had not received a first injection by then.

But – also on Tuesday – the department and Gov. Gavin Newsom filed a notice saying the state is considering appealing Judge Tigar’s ruling, leaving the requirement in limbo.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which paid $ 1.75 million to defend Newsom’s recall, opposed both vaccination orders in court.

In Kern County, the union is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from implementing the August 19 order of the Department of Public Health. Barmann’s temporary restraining order protects correctional officers from discipline while the court assesses the injunction. The filings are due to be filed as part of the injunction proceedings next week.

The union’s petition called on Barmann, who Newsom appointed to Kern County Court in December, to issue a restraining order for all affected prison workers. But Barmann issued an order affecting only employees represented by CCPOA: correctional officers and certain senior peace officers who work in prisons.

This story was originally published October 13, 2021 6:12 pm.

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Wes Venteicher presents the popular cover of The Bee’s State Worker in the newspaper’s Capitol Office. It covers taxes, pensions, labor, state expenses, and the California government. Originally from Montana, he reported on healthcare and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.

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