Deadline fast approaching for healthcare and school workers to be vaccinated

Oregon Administrative Rule 333-019-1010 requires healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated before Oct. 18, 2021, and OAR 333-019-0130 requires school employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by the same date. “Fully vaccinated” means having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and waiting two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. For the FDA-approved Pfizer/N-Biotech vaccine, the first dose would need to be administered on or before Monday, Sept. 13 in order to reach “full vaccination” status by Oct. 18. For the Moderna vaccine, the first dose would have needed to be received by Monday, Sept. 6, in order to meet the Oct. 18 deadline. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine would need to be administered on or before Oct. 4 to reach “full vaccination” status by the Oct. 18 deadline.

Free drive-up testing and vaccination clinics are held every Tuesday through October at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., Ontario, Ore., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local physician offices and pharmacies also offer the free vaccine. Contact your provider to schedule an appointment.

Health care workers, K-12 education staff will need to be vaccinated

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Two new vaccination measures intended to keep Oregonians safe were announced Thursday by Gov. Kate Brown. The measures will address Oregon’s hospital crisis caused by the Delta variant surge, and to help keep Oregon students safe and minimize disruptions to in-person instruction.

  • Oregon’s vaccination requirement for health care 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.
  • All teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.

“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 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.”

In both cases, health care workers and educators who are not yet vaccinated are urged to speak with their doctor or primary care provider to get their remaining questions about vaccination answered immediately, so they can begin the vaccination process in time to meet the new requirements. In the case of educators, the Governor outlined the importance of masks and staff vaccinations to protect students: because children under 12 are still not yet eligible for vaccination, masks are a critical mitigation measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ensuring all the adults around students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 adds another layer of protection for students as well.

“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 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 Governor also outlined the steps Oregon is taking to support hospitals during the ongoing surge in cases and hospitalizations, including deploying the National Guard and nurse strike teams, establishing temporary decompression units to free up bed space, and removing barriers to discharging patients who no longer require hospital-level care. Oregon has also made requests to FEMA and the President for additional federal resources and support. The Governor announced she has formed a Hospital Crisis Prevention and Response group consisting of health care stakeholders to problem solve in real time and suggest new measures to aid health care workers and hospitals during the ongoing hospital crisis.

As of Wednesday, Malheur County is averaging 15 new cases of COVID-19 every day, with a test positivity rate of 10.7 percent. Almost 40 percent of Malheur County’s eligible population has been vaccinated against the virus, and 19 people are being vaccinated every day.


Some exceptions to the school mask rule

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Yesterday, the Oregon Department of Education released updated guidance regarding wearing masks in school. As your local public health authority, we know that vaccination, mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent hand-washing help reduce the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19. Most children in schools are not vaccinated against COVID-19, so we encourage parents and schools to ensure children are maintaining safety measures, particularly as we are currently seeing new high numbers of infections across Oregon.

The guidance from ODE and the Oregon Health Authority outline the situations in which individuals in schools will not be required to wear a mask. These situations include:

  • Sleeping
  • Actively eating or drinking
  • Engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask, face covering or face shield not feasible, such as when actively swimming
  • In a private individual workspace, meaning an indoor space within a public or private workplace used for work by one individual at a time that is enclosed on all sides with walls from floor to ceiling, and with a closed door
  • Must remove the mask, face covering or face shield briefly because the individual’s identity needs to be confirmed by visual comparison
  • Practicing or playing a competitive sport at any level
  • Performing, including but not limited to playing music (an instrument which requires using the mouth), delivering a speech to an audience, and theater
  • Engaged in a sport during physical education class such as swimming, other water sports, or a sport where wearing a mask could be a strangulation hazard, such as gymnastics or wrestling
  • Alone in a private office enclosed by walls on all sides with a door that is closed
  • Under the age of 5 (unless the individual is riding a school bus, in which case all individuals over age 2 will be required to wear a face covering)
  • In preschool or early learning environments, individuals under age 2 are not required to wear face coverings.

The Oregon Health Authority will review the situation monthly, with the goal of returning to local decision-making.