You have probably read the news: California Governor Gavin Newsom is requiring health care and state government workers to get vaccinated to protect themselves—and others—against COVID-19. His reasoning is simple: COVID-19 cases are on the rise across California, and the delta variant poses another looming threat that could easily spiral out of control.

Many are questioning the legality of the Governor’s actions. But others like worker’s compensation attorneys are wondering how this will play out in terms of helping essential workers who may become injured while on the job.

Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 1159, which codified the COVID-19 presumption created through an Executive Order (N-62-20) that stated an employee’s COVID-19 illness is an occupational injury and therefore eligible for worker’s compensation benefits if certain criteria are met.

The law states that employees who get sick while on the job due to COVID-19 can stay home and be provided worker’s compensation benefits, thereby reducing the spread of the virus to others at their place of work and in the community. It also encourages employers to comply with local health directives and guidance concerning safely reopening businesses to reduce the risk of exposure and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace.

Wind down to almost a year later and with the COVID-19 delta variant cases on the rise across California and the United States, Governor Newsom’s latest announcement that the vaccine will be required of health and state government workers—who have been essential workers throughout the pandemic—has many lawyers questioning how this will impact worker’s compensation.

Will workers file a claim for their injuries? Overall, will claims go up? Will claims go down? Will they stay the same? Will a vaccine requirement vs. a mandate make a difference?

According to the California Worker’s Compensation Institute, there have been a total of 148,914 COVID-related claims made in the State of California to date. Of those, 148,222 were with injuries with a total of 1,032 deaths. It is apparent that COVID-19 has not disappeared and if the delta variant is any indication of what is to come, employers must prepare and be compliant with state mandates.

One thing is certain: if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in California, workers must be protected, especially those who are essential and have kept working hard throughout the pandemic to keep our economy moving forward.