Monday is the date that state-level orders take effect requiring that all eligible school children in California and all pre-K to 12th grade teachers and other state employees in New Jersey to be vaccinated against COVID-19. File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Activist groups on both U.S. coasts are staging "walkouts" on Monday to oppose state government COVID-19 requirements that mandate vaccination, masks and other health measures intended to prevent transmission of the virus.
The groups in separate walkouts in California and New Jersey are asking people to participate in the events, which paint the emergency health orders as unsafe and un-American.
Monday is the date that state-level orders take effect requiring that all eligible school children in California and pre-K to 12th grade teachers and other state employees in New Jersey be vaccinated against COVID-19.
California's mandate, the first of its kind in the United States, requires all students in grades 7-12 to be fully vaccinated or complete their studies through an independent study program at home, with enforcement expected to begin as soon as January.
As of Friday, California also required teachers to get vaccinated or subject themselves to weekly testing.
The requirements were ordered earlier this month by Gov. Gavin Newsom. They do allow for exemptions for religious and personal reasons, but officials have yet to specify the parameters that would allow for such exemptions.
Organization for the walkout has largely been done online, with one flyer on Twitter calling for parents of elementary, middle school and high school children to keep their children home on Monday -- and not call the schools to excuse the absences, in an attempt to deprive schools of daily attendance funds from the state.
Organizers have also called for teachers and other district employees who oppose the mandates to stay home Monday.
"Parents and concerned citizens all over [California] are taking action against the forced COVID-19 vaccine mandate for our children in state schools," the flyer states. "We demand parental choice over the bodily autonomy of our children."
A pharmacist holds a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site on the Cal Poly Pomona campus in Pomona, Calif., on February 13. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Parent Babe Prieto told KGO-TV in San Francisco that she hopes the potential financial impact will let schools know that parents are "serious about not being forced to vaccinate our children."
Oakland parent Micahel Avila, however, pointed out that schools nationwide have been requiring vaccinations for just about every other preventable disease for decades as a requirement to attend.
"You typically sign an agreement when your child attends any public school here in the United States that your child will be vaccinated," he said, according to KGO-TV. "And there's typically a list of vaccinations and immunizations that your child is required to have."
In a letter to parents, Twin Rivers Unified District Superintendent Steve Martinez urged parents to find other ways to voice their displeasure with the mandates instead of pulling the kids from school.
"Please let us continue to educate them, in school and in-person ... if you have strong feelings against vaccination mandates, consider sending an email or video message to the governor."
To date, California has so far administered COVID-19 vaccines to more than 52 million people over the age of 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Phil Murphy issued an order this summer that requires all public education personnel from preschool through high school and state employees to be vaccinated by Monday, or subject to COVID-19 testing a minimum of one to two times per week.
The walkout has primarily been organized by a group known as New Jersey Liberty, which is calling on everyone from students to truckers and delivery drivers to walk out for 10 minutes at 10:18 a.m. on Monday.
The group recommends participating by scheduling a fire drill or other outdoor event "so that no person is in violation and can still peacefully protest the mandate," the group states on its website.
The group's leader Nicholas Riess told a New Jersey radio station that the protest is specifically meant to target the mandates that require vaccines and face masks.
The group's argument is that Murphy's order doesn't allow individuals to reject the health measures that are intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
An Essex County COVID-19 vaccination site is seen at the Livingston Mall in Livingston, N.J., on January 11. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
"This is about people stopping and remembering, for a second, our freedom and what's important," Riess told 101.5 FM. "This is about standing up and saying, 'No, we are not going to continue with the fear campaign.'"
A flyer by New Jersey Liberty says that "masking 2-year-old children is abuse and should be treated as such."
To date, there have been nearly 12 million vaccinations administered in New Jersey to recipients over the age of 12.
The FDA and CDC have signed off on all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States -- produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- as safe and effective in preventing coronavirus transmission and severe illness and death in persons over 16.
The Pfizer vaccine has also been authorized by the agencies for children over 12, and the pharma company says it's safe in children as young as 5.
"The FDA is working around the clock to support the process for making COVID-19 vaccines available for children," the agency said last month.
"Until we authorize or approve a vaccine for this younger population, it's especially important that parents and others who interact closely with children under 12 years of age get vaccinated, wear masks, and follow other recommended precautions so that we can protect those who cannot yet protect themselves through vaccination."