Oregon Governor Kate Brown has ordered teachers and healthcare workers to get vaccinated or they will be fired.

The governor made her announcement this week in a press conference and a press release. Healthcare workers, unlike those in Idaho, have been given protection by a 30 year Oregon Law that the governor has ignored with her declaration. 

She gave the deadline of October 18th for those who haven't gotten the shot. Last week, the governor ordered the indoor mask mandate returned due to rising Covid levels. Education and healthcare workers could have to get the vaccine early if the FDA approves the drugs, which could happen any day now. The governor said her orders were in response to rising Delta Variant cases that have hit Oregon hard recently. The state is almost at a 60% vaccination rate. Governor Brown shared her reasoning for the move:

 "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."

She continued to explain the need for educators to get the shot: 

"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," said Governor Brown. "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."

The area will be watching to see if the governor's orders are challenged in court. The Willamette Weekly examined Oregon's Law protecting healthcare workers. You can read about it here.

Oregon Nurses Respond to Brown

In a press release below the Oregon Nurses Association urges all stakeholders to address the current and what will be expanded nursing shortage due to the governor's orders.

Governor Brown’s announcement today of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for nurses and other front-line health care workers will likely increase vaccination rates among those workers but will also put additional pressure on an already dangerous nurse staffing crisis in Oregon.

ONA knows that vaccines are the most important tool for protecting our members, their patients and families, and our communities from the ongoing spread of COVID-19. We know Oregon’s registered nurses and nurse practitioners have already achieved a high rate of vaccination. We also know that some health care workers are deeply opposed to vaccine mandates; so deeply that some will leave the profession before accepting a mandate.

Governor Brown’s previous rule that required weekly testing with a waiver for health care workers who show proof of vaccination was a reasonable compromise that encouraged vaccination while protecting public health. Today’s decision to mandate vaccinations for health care workers may ultimately exacerbate an already dangerous staffing crisis in hospitals across the state.

ONA calls upon all stakeholders to join us in taking urgent, innovative steps to address this crisis now. We call on hospitals and health systems to focus on nurse retention and recruitment, invest in health care workers serving on the frontlines and open up a space at the decision-making table so they can hear from frontline nurses and caregivers. We must work together to protect our communities during this crisis.

In addition, ONA-represented facilities must bargain immediately on the impacts of this change to the conditions of employment as required by law. ONA is already at the bargaining table in some of our represented facilities, and we will demand to bargain with all our represented facilities on the wide and varied impacts of this change.

ONA believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the deep fractures in our health care system. Lynda Pond, RN, ONA President said, “For decades, hospitals have cut corners and failed to invest in nursing staff. People across the state are now bearing the full burden of these failed policies. This is about more than vaccine mandates: this is about a legacy of false promises and failures on the part of hospitals who put more value on their profitability than they do on protecting patients, providing safe staffing, or ensuring nurse retention.”

 

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