Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is vying for another term at the helm of the state, says that all school districts should require their teachers and school staff to be fully vaccinated as the school year nears.
“A fully vaccinated school workforce is imperative to our next generation’s success. With in-person learning resuming in school districts across the Commonwealth, it is critical to the health, wellbeing and future of the more than one million Virginia K-12 school students that our educators and school staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” McAuliffe said in a statement provided to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday night.
“We simply can not take any chances when it comes to keeping our children safe, our schools open, and our economy strong.”
Requirements that employees get vaccinated have become more commonplace amid a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Virginia and across the country, fueled largely by lagging vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.
Earlier this month, McAuliffe announced he had issued a vaccine requirement for his entire campaign staff.
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor, has opposed such measures, saying they violate an employee’s right to decide. Youngkin said he is fully vaccinated.
“Data show the COVID vaccine saves lives. That’s why I chose to get the vaccine,” Youngkin tweeted earlier this month. “Virginians have the right to decide for themselves, but if you are in a high-risk category, I especially encourage you to get vaccinated.”
The candidates have split on how to approach COVID-19 as cases surge. Last week, Youngkin criticized a mandate from Gov. Ralph Northam that all schools require masks for anyone over the age of 2; McAuliffe supported Northam’s mask mandate.
McAuliffe’s call on school districts to require that teachers get vaccinated comes two days after Richmond Public Schools issued such a requirement for its schools staff with a deadline of Oct. 1. Arlington County issued a similar requirement for its teachers last week.
The Northam administration says it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to issue a requirement for teachers statewide, but a spokesperson said the administration has been “clear in encouraging local governments to issue their own vaccine requirements.”