Mandatory COVID‑19 Vaccines and Testing for Institution Staff

NOTE: The testing requirements in this memo are superceded by the September 16, 2022 memo, Updates to COVID-19 testing requirements for institution and facility staff.

The purpose of this memorandum is to address two Public Health Orders issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH):

In this memorandum, direction will be provided to all California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS), and Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff statewide regarding the requirements and expectations pursuant to these Orders.

August 19, 2021 Public Health Order: Full Vaccination Requirement for Staff

The August 19, 2021, CDPH Public Health Order requires workers in specified correctional health care facilities to show evidence of full vaccination for COVID-19 by October 14, 2021, or to obtain approval for a reasonable medical or religious accommodation precluding them from the mandatory full vaccination. Staff for whom this requirement applies cannot opt out of vaccination or routinely test in lieu of vaccination.

The Order’s requirement for full vaccination applies to all staff at California Health Care Facility (CHCF), California Medical Facility (CMF), and the Skilled Nursing Facility at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). In addition, it applies to those workers regularly assigned to work in the following health care areas or posts within institutions system-wide.

  1. All Correctional Treatment Centers (CTC) and similar locations, including:
    • Medical CTC beds
    • Licensed and Unlicensed Psychiatric In-Patient Program housing
    • Licensed and Unlicensed Mental Health Crisis housing
  2. All Out-Patient Housing Units (OHUs)
  3. Medical, Specialty, Mental Health, and Dental clinic treatment areas
  4. Hospice beds
  5. Dialysis units
  6. Triage and Treatment Areas (TTAs)
  7. Staff identified on the Master Assignment Roster as assigned to transportation or medical guarding in the community
  8. All DJJ staff assigned to the Mental Health Residential Units, Intensive Behavioral Treatment Program Units, and Sexual Behavior Treatment Program Units
  9. All staff assigned to the Medical Wings within DJJ facilities
  10. All staff assigned to the Program Center at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility

All paid and unpaid regularly assigned workers/volunteers subject to the Order’s vaccination requirement include but are not limited to the following: clinicians, nurses/nursing assistants, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, dietary staff, janitorial and laundry staff, administrative staff, registry staff, contract staff, volunteers, custody staff, health facility maintenance workers, and incarcerated workers. The Order’s vaccination requirement shall apply to all five-day-a-week posts and regular-day-off posts. Currently, this requirement will not apply to non-regularly assigned staff, such as relief staff, voluntary overtime, mandatory overtime, swaps, or those who do not work in the area regularly, such as staff making pick-ups or deliveries, conducting maintenance repairs, conducting tours, etc. Additionally, this will not apply to any staff responding to emergencies.

Local Hiring Authority Responsibilities: Each local hiring authority shall be responsible for identifying staff who are regularly assigned to the listed areas and notifying the employees that they are covered by and must comply with the August 19, 2021, order. The Staff Vaccine Registry shall be utilized to determine staff who are vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated. Staff who have not already done so may submit vaccination records. For complete instructions, refer to the May 19, 2021 memorandum, “Submission of COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards.”

Qualifying Accommodations to Vaccination Requirement

  1. Medical Reasonable Accommodation

Staff unable to be fully vaccinated due to a qualifying medical reason shall notify their supervisor and Return-to-Work Coordinator of their request for a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation requests shall be submitted on the CDCR Form 855, Request for Reasonable Accommodation, and require a written statement signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician stating that the individual qualifies for the accommodation (but the statement should not describe the underlying medical condition or disability) and the probable duration of an individual’s inability to receive the vaccine (or if the duration is unknown or permanent, so indicate).

2. Religious Accommodation

Staff unable to be fully vaccinated due to a sincerely held religious belief shall notify their supervisor and local Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator of their request for religious accommodation. Religious accommodation requests shall require a statement indicating that the individual has a sincerely held religious belief that precludes them from obtaining any COVID-19 vaccine.

3. Requests for medical/religious reasonable accommodation shall be submitted by September 14, 2021. The Department shall engage in the interactive process with staff to ensure that the appropriate determination is made. Staff who have submitted a request for reasonable medical or religious accommodation may request permission to remain off work, using leave credits or an unpaid leave of absence pending a determination on the request. Staff who are approved for a reasonable medical or religious accommodation shall be subjected to mandatory twice-weekly testing as required by the August 5, 2021 California Department of Public Health Public Health Order and the All Facilities Letter (AFL) 21-28 until such Order and AFL are rescinded or otherwise no longer in effect.

Further direction will be forthcoming regarding staff regularly assigned to the identified institutions or health care areas who are not vaccinated or do not have an approved reasonable medical or religious reasonable accommodation secured by October 14, 2021.

CDCR and CCHCS Labor Relations will be working with labor organizations to inform them of this Order.

JULY 26, 2021, Public Health Order: Health Care Worker Protections in High-Risk Settings

The August 19, 2021 order supplements and does not supplant the CDPH’s Public Health Order issued on July 26, 2021. The CDPH’s July 26, 2021, Public Health Order requires all unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers in High-Risk Congregate Settings, including state and local correctional facilities, to undergo screening and testing for COVID-19. In other words, staff to whom the August 19, 2021, requirement does not apply remain subject to the requirements of the July 26, 2021, Order.

Therefore, pursuant to this Order and effective August 23, 2021, all staff who work in correctional settings who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or have not provided a record of full vaccination shall undergo twice-weekly COVID testing with at least 72 hours between each test.

If you are testing outside of the CDCR testing program, you will need to submit proof of testing.

Refusal to get tested on a twice-weekly basis may result in corrective or disciplinary action in accordance with Department Operations Manual, Article 22, Employee Discipline, Section 33030.8, Causes for Corrective Action, and 33030.9, Causes for Adverse Action.


If you have any questions or concerns about the directives contained in this memorandum, inquiries should be directed as follows:

  • For Wardens: Contact your mission’s Associate Director, Division of Adult Institutions (DAI)
  • For Chief Executive Officers: Contact your respective Regional Health Care Executive
  • For DJJ: Contact either Deputy Director
  • For staff with reasonable accommodation-related questions: Contact the local Return-to-Work Coordinator for medical accommodations and their local EEO Coordinator for religious accommodations.