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San Benito County orders all EMS, fire employees to get vaccinated

Amid a report of a Covid outbreak within the Hollister Fire Department, San Benito County orders all EMS and fire employees to get vaccinated.

Coming off the heels of a Covid-19 outbreak within the Hollister Fire Department, interim San Benito County Public Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci issued a new vaccination order for public safety workers on Wednesday morning. 

It states that all San Benito County, City of Hollister and City of San Juan Bautista employees and contractors who provide fire and emergency medical services in the County must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30, according to an Aug. 18 San Benito County press release. 

The order also requires all law enforcement personnel to provide vaccine documentation or undergo weekly testing. The new county order comes a day after KSBW reported that close to a dozen firefighters in the Hollister Fire Department had tested positive for the virus. 

According to the report, Ghilarducci told KSBW that “it’s his understanding that at least some of the firefighters were not vaccinated.” That bit of information left Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez flabbergasted.

“It’s just frustrating because I found out the week before that a large percentage of our firefighters are not vaccinated,” Velazquez told the Free Lance. “In this day and age, how in the world can that still be the case when our firefighters are protecting the public? So this can’t go on, but we had the outbreak and here we are.” 

Calls and text messages to Fire Chief Charlie Bedolla requesting comment were not returned. 

The summary of the health order is: 

– All Fire and Emergency Medical Services workers must provide vaccination documentation to their employer and be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30.

– Those not yet fully vaccinated shall immediately undergo at least twice weekly testing.

– For Fire and Emergency Medical Services, testing will not be allowed as a substitute for full vaccination after Sept. 30.

– All law personnel must provide vaccination documentation to their employer or undergo weekly testing.

– All unvaccinated workers must wear an FDA-cleared surgical mask or respirator in indoor settings.

– Employer must maintain documentation of fully vaccinated employees

The new order goes a step beyond the one the California Department of Public Health issued on Aug. 5 which requires employees of healthcare facilities and other high risk settings to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. San Benito County is believed to be one of only a handful in the state with this type of vaccination order, with Los Angeles County being the most prominent. 

Velazquez gave Ghilarducci and Supervisors Kollin Kosmicki and Bob Tiffany’s credit for their concern for the public throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with this week’s county order being the latest example. 

“We clearly can’t thank Dr. Ghilarducci enough for taking the lead in doing this and making sure our firefighters are vaccinated,” Velazquez said. “I’m glad the county pursued that and thank Supervisors Kosmicki and Tiffany for being the leaders and seeing the importance of making sure this is happening. I know since they were both elected, they have been serious on Covid and pushing things to make sure the community is protected. At this point in the pandemic, it’s absolutely unacceptable for those who work in jobs that protect the public to not be vaccinated.”

Emanuel Lee can be reached at