Governor Kate Brown to demand that unvaccinated healthcare workers be tested weekly

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Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday released a new requirement that healthcare workers who are not vaccinated submit to at least weekly testing for COVID-19.

“The more contagious Delta variant changed everything,” Brown said in a statement. “This new safety measure is necessary to prevent Delta from causing serious illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students and frontline health workers. Protecting our frontline healthcare workers with immunizations will also improve the safety of the patients they care for. “

Although the statement expresses urgency, Brown has chosen not to pursue more aggressive approaches. Brown did not choose to issue a state rule that could override a 1989 law that prohibits employers from requiring vaccination of healthcare workers.

“We worked closely with healthcare providers and other stakeholders to develop this rule,” said Brown spokesperson Charles Boyle. “Before full FDA approval, it is essential to offer an alternative to mandatory vaccination. We also strongly encourage healthcare and other employers to remove barriers to access to immunization, such as providing paid time off for immunization. “

Full approval is expected next month, and Boyle adds that the governor “will reassess at that time.”

The press release from the governor’s office also says Brown plans to work on the issue for the short February 2022 session, setting up a potentially legislative fight over whether there should be an exemption from all vaccines, not just COVID-19.

The governor’s office also said it doesn’t believe there’s nothing stopping hospitals (and other healthcare employers) from adopting a weekly COVID testing rule, but it will be necessary now.

The requirement will go into effect on September 30.

This echoes what other jurisdictions – California, New York City and Nevada – have in place for all public employees: a vaccine or a weekly testing requirement for COVID-19. Brown didn’t. The governor’s office says discussions about a requirement for state employees are underway.

The Oregon Nurses Association, which has opposed efforts to change the law exempting healthcare workers from the mandate, praised Brown for taking a “reasonable and sane approach.”

“This is a reasonable and sensible approach that respects the individual choices of healthcare workers while protecting public health,” Scott Palmer of the Oregon Nurses Association said in a statement included in the governor’s announcement. . “The ONA is also pleased to note that current Oregon law provides the state with the flexibility to respond to public health emergencies through regulation. “

Supporters of allowing healthcare employers to demand vaccines also welcomed Brown’s announcement.

“We support Governor Brown’s action today, which will demand that healthcare workers in Oregon be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested for the virus,” said “Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Hospitals and Health Systems Association. , in a report. “With these additional tools, we can better respond to this evolving pandemic and provide the safest possible environment for those who depend on us.”

Officials from the Oregon Health Care Association, the industry group of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, said they support the governor’s announcement and their industry is stepping up efforts to get people vaccinated. workers.

“Anyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” said Linda Kirschbaum, senior vice president of quality services at OHCA. “Continued, proactive efforts to increase immunization rates are the only way forward to fully exit the pandemic and protect the health of Oregonians. It is imperative that our caregivers, who provide care and support to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as other health care providers across the state be vaccinated. “

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