PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown issued new statewide COVID-19 vaccination requirements for K-12 educators and healthcare workers on Thursday.
Brown announced that she’s directing the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule requiring teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers at K-12 schools to be fully vaccinated.
“COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids, and our kids need to be protected and they need to be in school,” she said.
Brown also said Oregon’s vaccination requirement for healthcare workers will no longer have a testing alternative. Health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later. The governor said the state doesn’t have adequate resources to support the weekly testing option.
“The fact that the governor has had to move to a place of mandating all healthcare workers and educators get vaccinated is really a sobering statement and very sad,” said Lynda Pond, a registered nurse and the president of the Oregon Nurses Association. “It’s imperative that people do the right thing and get the vaccine. I totally support that and so does ONA.”
While ONA believes nurses and other healthcare workers should get the shot, the union doesn’t agree with the governor’s decision, saying it could very well be counterproductive at a time when hospitals need staff more than ever.
“I want to be really clear, it’s not that we’re against vaccinations. We’re resistant to mandation because what we know will happen when healthcare workers are mandated to get the vaccine, is that they will leave the field rather than compromise their personal beliefs,” said Pond.
Pond said the biggest concern healthcare workers have is that the vaccine hasn’t been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is expected to fully approve the Pfizer vaccine by early September.
Brown’s latest announcements come as hospitals are approaching their maximum limits in beds and staffing: 93% of hospital beds in Oregon are occupied. 94% of adult ICU beds are full statewide.
The state reported 2,971 new COVID cases and 845 hospitalizations on Thursday.
OHA Director Pat Allen said the agency is doing everything it can to increase hospital capacity and staffing.
“The Oregon Health Authority and our partners are working to shore up the two most important parts of a functioning hospital system: patient beds and the people who staff them,” Allen said.
OHA is working with the Human Services and long-term care facilities to create surge beds to ease overcrowding in hospitals.
“Skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers will stand up surge and decompression beds in high impact regions to help hospitals patients who are waiting for discharge to other facilities where they can continue to safely recover,” he said.
They have also requested FEMA support to set up a field hospital and are in discussions.
State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said data shows that cases are increasing among kids.
“Young people, 18 and under, are accounting for a larger share of #COVID19 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.