Wheeler: Vaccination proof or tests for Portland city employees
Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Thursday morning he will ask the City Council to require Portland employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take weekly tests, with limited exception.
"As the Mayor of Portland, I am called to do whatever I can to keep our community as safe as possible," Wheeler said. "Therefore, I have directed Office of Management and Finance staff to develop a plan that requires all city employees show one-time proof of COVID-19 vaccination or take weekly COVID-19 tests."
City government reinstated its mandatory face covering requirement for everyone in city-owned or -leased facilities on July 28.
Once a plan has been developed, it will be brought to the council for approval.
"The city is committed to ensuring its policies and procedures not only meet legal requirements, but also the city's goals and equity concerns," the announcement reads. "Decision-makers are aware that employees may have special exemptions covered by the Americans with Disability Act or religious accommodations and other laws. The plan will include detailed information about vaccine exemptions."
The city of Portland employs more than 7,300 public employees, many of whom work in public facilities, parks and streets.
"It is my civic responsibility to take whatever safety measures are possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Requiring vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for all of the city's public employees is the best way I can help protect our community," Wheeler said. "This decision was not made lightly. I have consulted with health authorities, leaders in other municipalities and several city colleagues on this matter and we strongly believe this is the best way we can help protect our community's health and safety."
Wheeler told commissioners at Wednesday's council meeting that he is calling for city workers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or to submit to weekly coronavirus tests. Wheeler said he does not have the authority to do so without the support of the council, but that he is working with city lawyers to draft an order similar to those in other cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Council members did not comment on the draft order during the meeting.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face repeated testing, according to the Washington Post.
Wheeler's comments come just a couple of days after a city employee in the management office said a vaccine requirement would go against city values. But the mayor said he's pushing for vaccine proof or testing to protect the roughly 7,000 city employees amid a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Oregon Health Authority reported another 804 cases of the coronavirus July 28. The new cases bring the state's total to 217,690. Six more Oregonians died from the virus, raising the state death toll to 2,849, according to state health officials. Four of the six victims were from Umatilla and Jackson counties, where vaccination rates are significantly below the rest of the state. Two of the victims were in their 30s, health officials reported.
The health authority said 2,477,608 people in Oregon have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,302,395 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 15 patients to 274, health officials said. The number of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units increased by nine — to 86 — as well.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
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