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Oct. 24, 2021

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PeaceHealth, Kaiser report high COVID-19 vaccination rates among staff in Southwest Washington

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LONGVIEW — Two of Longview’s largest medical providers, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente, report high COVID-19 vaccination rates after passing deadlines for their own vaccine mandates announced in August.

As of Tuesday, 97% of PeaceHealth St. John caregivers, about 1,450 people, are in compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement policy, according to the organization. Of those, 4% have approved exemptions.

Kaiser Permanente did not have specific numbers for its Longview clinic. For the Northwest region, including Oregon and Southwest Washington, about 89% of staff and 99% of physicians were fully vaccinated, according to Kaiser.

About 1,000 Northwest region employees submitted a request for an exemption, according to Kaiser. The organization is providing a provisional approval to employees who submitted requests on time, but are awaiting review.

About 1.5% of employees, roughly 170 out of 11,100, were put on leave because they didn’t submit either an exemption request or proof of vaccination by Sept. 30, said Debbie Karman, Kaiser spokesperson. Employees have until Dec. 1 to respond and return to work.

“We hope none of our employees will choose to leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated, but we won’t know with certainty until then,” according to a Kaiser statement. “We will continue to work with this group of employees to allay concerns and educate them about the vaccines, their benefits, and risks.”

PeaceHealth and Kaiser announced their own vaccine requirements in early August, before Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate. PeaceHealth employees had to submit proof of vaccination or approved exemption by the end of August. Kaiser employees had until the end of September.

Although Oct. 4 was the last day people could get vaccinated to be in compliance by the state mandate’s Oct. 18 deadline, state officials Wednesday encouraged workers to get the shot.

“The good news is it looks like the vast majority of people in those categories are getting vaccinated, and that is the goal of the requirements is to get people vaccinated. And certainly to protect the very individuals that, for example, healthcare workers … are charged with being responsible for, caring for,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah during a press briefing Wednesday.

Statewide vaccination rates are increasing, with 64.1% of the total population initiating vaccination and 59% fully vaccinated as of Monday.

About 55.9% of Cowlitz County residents had initiated vaccination and 50.8% were fully vaccinated as of Monday.

Cowlitz County COVID-19 cases are decreasing and hospitalizations appear to be flattening.

The county recorded 43 new confirmed cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 11,445 confirmed and 1,369 probable cases. The county recorded five new deaths, with 219 total.

PeaceHealth St. John had 21 COVID-19 inpatients as of Wednesday morning.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are decreasing statewide, but remain at high rates, said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of COVID-19 response.

In September, unvaccinated people 12 to 64 years old were 19 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, Fehrenbach said. Unvaccinated people 65 years old and older were nine times more likely.

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