(The Center Square) – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear a union’s case Friday in which a northern California judge granted it a temporary restraining order against the state's imposition of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on prison workers.
Kern County Judge Bernard Barmann issued a temporary restraining order, preventing enforcement of the mandate in response to a request for a preliminary injunction made by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) in May. The union represents roughly 28,000 officers statewide.
In a separate case in Alameda County, Oakland-based federal Judge Jon S. Tigar ruled prison guards must receive the COVID-19 vaccine, ordering the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to implement the mandate. His ruling even extended to inmates who work outside of their institution or want to be able to receive in-person visits.
After Tigar’s ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom filed an appeal in support of the union despite his actions putting vaccine mandates in place, prompting backlash and cries of hypocrisy from Californians who oppose the mandates.
Rocklin City Councilman Joe Patterson wrote on social media, “So Confused. Guess the kids don’t contribute enough,” referring to Newsom’s mandate that 12-year-olds and up must receive the shots.
Republican Rep. Kevin Kiley, also of Rocklin, who ran against Newsom in the recall election, said, “Special Interests can buy their way out of vaccine mandates just like lockdowns.”
The legislators pointed out that Newsom’s about face came after his campaign received $1.75 million from the CCPOA in July, which helped him win the recall election. Also in July, the union secured $5,000 pandemic bonuses and raises for correctional officers from the state.
“For Newsom, your rights as a parent mean nothing,” Kiley wrote in an email to constituents. “The well-being of your child means nothing. Public health and ‘science’ mean nothing. All that matters is money and headlines."
Despite Judge Barmann’s ruling, the mandate still applies to employees who work in state prisons with health care facilities.
The union emphasizes that it has “repeatedly and consistently supported vaccinations, masks and other personal protective equipment and other COVID-19-tackling safety rules and practices,” according to its brief. Its board of directors expressed support for the COVID-19 vaccines in January, and its executive leadership were filmed receiving the shots for a public service video that was used to encourage all employees to take the experimental drug.
The union also created a COVID-19 Mitigation Advocate Program to use workgroups at each institution to train staff on mitigating COVID-19 and deploying safety measures.
The CDCR is tasked with enforcing the vaccine order issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Aug. 19. The CDPH order requires paid and unpaid individuals who are regularly assigned to provide health care or health care services to incarcerated people, prisoners, or detainees to provide evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 by Oct. 14 unless they qualify for an accommodation based on a sincerely held religious belief or due to qualifying medical reasons.
A CDCR report states that, as of Sept. 10, 240 inmates and 39 prison employees statewide had died from COVID-19-related deaths. And a total of 50,991 coronavirus positive test results were confirmed among inmates and employees.
There are currently 98,674 inmates in custody and under CRPP supervision, as of Oct. 13.