PORTLAND — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is “examining” whether to require that state workers get vaccinated, as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread across the state and COVID-19 cases spike.
Elsewhere, in California and New York, officials announced state employees will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests for COVID-19. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first federal agency to require vaccinations, for its health workers.
“We are examining the actions taken this week by California, New York City and the VA, and determining what further actions can be taken in Oregon,” Brown’s deputy communications director Charles Boyle wrote in an email on Wednesday.
As cases continue to increase across the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated masking guidelines on Tuesday, recommending that people — vaccinated or not — return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant is rampant.
The CDC also recommended masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors inside of schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The Oregon Department of Education has not immediately required the state’s public schools to adopt indoor mask mandates, and it remains unclear whether it will do so at all.
“The Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority and Governor’s office are reviewing the CDC’s guidance,” said Marc Siegel, a spokesperson for state’s top education agency. “Any update would come only after thorough review and consultation.”
Under current guidelines from the state’s department of education, individual districts can decide whether to require students, staff and faculty to wear masks inside school buildings.
In addition, on Tuesday the Oregon Health Authority followed suite with CDC in urging people to wear mask in indoor public spaces, but stopped short of reinstating an indoor mask mandate.
“Because life-saving vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available––and because so many Oregonians are protected––we have reached the point in the pandemic where unprecedented, blanket statewide measures are no longer the most effective or efficient defense against the spread of COVID-19, which is now concentrated in communities with low vaccination rates and high vaccine hesitancy,” Boyle said.
Instead state officials say that they believe targeted efforts or local coronavirus-related safety measures would be more beneficial to address and high-infection rates in counties.
“Such measures at the local level are more likely to be effective in reaching unvaccinated Oregonians than state-level mandates,” Boyle said.
Sara Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.