Wheeler calls for vaccine proof or weekly tests for city workers

Coronavirus

Oregon's COVID-19 death toll hit 2,849 on Wednesday

FILE – (AP Photo/Jefferson Bernardes, File)


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Health officials in Oregon logged another 804 cases of the coronavirus Wednesday as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler calls for city workers to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly tests.

The new cases reported on Wednesday bring the state’s total to 217,690. Six more Oregonians died from the virus, raising the state death toll to 2,849, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Four of the six victims were from Umatilla and Jackson counties where vaccination rates are significantly below the rest of the state. Two of the victims were in their 30s, health officials reported.

OHA said 2,477,608 people in Oregon have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,302,395 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 15 patients to 274, health officials said. The number of patients with COVID-19 in the ICU increased by nine 86 as well.

In light of surging case numbers and hospitalization rates, Portland’s mayor is now calling for city workers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or submit to weekly coronavirus tests. But Wheeler said he doesn’t have the authority to do so without the support of the City Council.

Wheeler told commissioners at a City Council meeting on Wednesday that he’s working with city lawyers to draft an order similar to those in other cities such as Los Angeles and New York. City Council members did not comment on the draft order during the meeting.

“If I had the ability to act unilaterally, I would support vaccination for all city employees or regular testing to demonstrate that people are not coming into our workplace, potentially spreading COVID,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler’s comments come just a couple of days after a city employee in the management office said a vaccine requirement would go against city values. But the mayor said he’s pushing for vaccine proof or testing to protect the roughly 7,000 city employees amid a rapid surge in COVID cases.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday were from the following counties: Baker (19), Benton (13), Clackamas (44), Clatsop (8), Columbia (10), Coos (8), Crook (6), Curry (5), Deschutes (43), Douglas (50), Grant (1),  Harney (2), Hood River (2), Jackson (91), Jefferson (7), Josephine (54), Lane (67), Lincoln (5), Linn (38), Malheur (7), Marion (59), Morrow (4), Multnomah (80), Polk (12), Sherman (4), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (55), Union (19), Wallowa (7), Wasco (5), Washington (59), Wheeler (1), Yamhill (16).

In the past three weeks, Oregon has seen new coronavirus cases rise by 243%. Nearly 3,000 cases were recorded in the state this week, the highest weekly total since mid-May.

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