Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday that all K-12 teachers and staff and all healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall.
“There are those who will disagree with the actions I am taking today,” Brown said in a morning news conference. “But school is starting across the state. COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids, and our kids need to be protected. And I’m willing to take the heat for it.”
She said she has 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 by Oct. 18 or six weeks from FDA approval, whichever is later.
All Oregon healthcare workers will also need to be fully vaccinated to keep their jobs, and will no longer have the option to get tested for COVID-19.
“As always, we are following science in implementing health and safety protocols. And 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,” Brown said.
She was joined by representatives from the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education.
“I want to be honest: the situation in Oregon hospitals is growing increasingly dire,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said. “Our health care system is on the verge of collapse in parts of the state. In coming weeks, every Oregon hospital could be over-topped.”
“I need to be direct about what’s causing this crisis: a growing wave of unvaccinated patients who have become so seriously sick with the delta variant, they need to be hospitalized.”
Allen said currently, 845 are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state of Oregon and 226 are in intensive care.
“We also had another record-setting week in hospitalizations. Over the past reporting week, a total of 546 Oregonians with COVID-19 were hospitalized, up from 322 COVID-19 hospitalizations the prior week. It’s the highest weekly figure of the pandemic.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger spoke about the increase in cases among children.
“Young people, 18 and under, are accounting for a larger share of COVID-19 cases. Our most recent pediatric data, posted today, shows that there have been 31,394 cases within the under 18 age group, representing 12.7% of all COVID-19 cases,” he said.
In an open letter to Oregon superintendents on Tuesday, school board members, and education leaders, Brown asked them to follow guidelines and keep kids in school this fall.
The letter was written in response to school leaders throughout the state who have indicated they will not follow mask requirements.
“Wearing a mask is an act of kindness,” she said. “By wearing masks, we are teaching our children that they can protect each other in the classroom. That we can all work together to keep each other safe.”
This comes two weeks after the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced a masking requirement for when students return to school in the fall.
Portland Public Schools — Oregon’s largest school district — announced Wednesday it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees during the 2021-2022 school year.
On Thursday, Central Oregon Daily’s Steele Haugen spoke with several local school districts about potentially implementing requirements.
Bend-La Pine Schools released a statement in response, saying it will not require vaccines for teachers and staff in the fall.
Crook County School District Director of Communications Jason Carr says it supports individual school districts making that decision for its communities and families.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Wednesday all teachers and school staff would be required to get the vaccine.
That includes public, private and charter schools across the state.
Gov. Brown’s press conference will be available on a YouTube livestream.
We will have more on the press conference coming up at 5 on Central Oregon’s local ABC.