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As a Reuters tally showed the United States topping 700,000 coronavirus deaths on Friday, California governor Gavin Newsom announced it will become the first U.S. state to mandate statewide COVID-19 vaccinations for schoolchildren.
“The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella – there’s no reason why we wouldn’t do the same for COVID-19," the Democratic governor said at a news conference.
California, the most populous U.S. state, could enact the mandate as early as January, Newsom said, once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves inoculations for their age groups.
According to a Reuters analysis of public health data, the United States has reported an average of more than 2,000 deaths per day over the past week, just about 60% of the peak in fatalities in January.
The U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths— nearly 19% and 14% of all reported infections and fatalities worldwide—while globally the pandemic is set to surpass 5 million deaths.
Although hospitalizations have fallen in past weeks, some states, especially in the south , are experiencing record big rises, putting pressure on health systems.
Public health officials say California's strict COVID-19 public health requirements helped to slow the transmission of the virus in recent weeks.
The mandate will take effect for students for grades 7 through 12 once the FDA grants full approval for kids 12 and older to be vaccinated. https://t.co/7BO0ZWPnAp
The transmission map tracker of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed California with the lowest weekly case rate in the country as of Friday.
Several large school districts in California already have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for some students amid the national surge in cases fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, leading to serious illness and death mostly among unvaccinated people.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the country's second-largest, requires vaccinations for children over the age of 12, for whom the FDA has authorized their emergency use.
Public schools in San Diego will require vaccines for students over the age of 16 in December, and in Hoboken, New Jersey, students must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus.