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Vaccines Required

Oregon to require the vaccination of all healthcare and K-12 workers, as cases soar and positions go unfilled



Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced this week that healthcare workers and K-12 school employees need to confirm they have been fully vaccinated by Oct.18 to continue working. Previously, healthcare workers could regularly test themselves if they didn’t want to get vaccinated.  

The announcement came as case numbers in Oregon are reaching record highs, trending upwards since mask and social distancing mandates were scrapped on July 1, when adult Oregonians surpassed a 70% vaccination benchmark. Oregon Health Authority data shows that 98.88% of the most recent cases are the more contagious Delta variant.  

“The Delta variant has put enormous pressure on our health systems, and health care workers are being stretched to their absolute limits providing life-saving treatment for the patients in their care," said Governor Brown. "I am devoting all available resources to help, and we must proactively implement solutions right now. We need every single frontline health care worker healthy and available to treat patients." Brown ordered members of the National Guard to offer support at Oregon hospitals this week, including Bend’s St. Charles Medical Center.  

St. Charles Health System currently has about 76.5% of its caregivers fully vaccinated. St. Charles’ public information and government affairs officer Lisa Goodman told the Source that with the limited information about the vaccine mandate’s implementation, it’s difficult to know whether the health system can reach 100% vaccination among staff by the deadline, or if some healthcare workers will retire or leave their jobs if the vaccine is mandatory. 

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“We can only speculate, but of course it’s possible some of our caregivers may choose to resign rather than get vaccinated. We’re preparing to share with our workforce more details about the mandate, as well the vaccine, which just today [Monday] received FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approval (the Pfizer-BioNTech version). Our goal is to provide as much information as possible so that our caregivers can make an informed decision,” Goodman wrote in an email. 

The potential loss of staff poses a challenge for the healthcare system, already working through a staffing shortage that has factored into delays for patient care.   

“We have many job openings across the system—about 800—but where we feel this shortage most acutely right now is at the bedside, where we need more than 200 nurses and certified nursing assistants,” Goodman stated. 

School worker mandates

Brown’s mandate for workers at K-12 schools was implemented in an effort to keep schools in session year-round, and because the Delta variant has been hitting kids harder than in the past. Educational nonprofit Northwest Evaluation Association estimates that the distance learning implemented in the spring reduced retention of math by 50% and reading by 30% in third to eighth grade students. 

“Our kids need to be in the classroom full-time, five days a week, and we have to do everything we can to make that happen," Brown said. "While we are still learning about the Delta variant, we know from previous experience that when schools open with safety measures in place, the risk of transmission is low. That’s why I’ve directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule requiring all teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools to be fully vaccinated." 

Redmond School District officials say they’re waiting to see the Oregon Health Authority rules before commenting, but the Redmond School Board will consider implementing a mask mandate during its regular meeting Aug. 25. District Superintendent Charan Cline has stated the district will follow required mandates, though many school board members oppose mandatory masking of students. 

Bend-La Pine Schools was not able to comment about its masking or vaccination plans by the time this story went to print. 

Venues require vaccines or tests 

Brown announced outdoor mask mandates are returning on Friday, Aug. 27, for most public outdoor settings where social distancing isn’t possible. 

“Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight COVID and protect one another,” Brown said in a press release. 

Previously some hospitality companies are enforcing vaccine requirements of their own volition. Bend’s Les Schwab Ampitheater announced it will require a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination to attend concerts starting with its Modest Mouse show Aug.29, the Sisters Folk Festival, scheduled for October, will require proof of vaccination and will enforce mask mandates and 

Clear Summer Nights at the Athletic Club of Bend will require proof of vaccination, a negative test, masks and will offer COVID tests on site.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...

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