Oregon Corrections: 33% of workers still unvaccinated, grace period in effect
Employers were still counting heads as Oregon Gov. Brown's vaccine mandate came and went Monday, Oct. 18. Most agencies included in the mandate lost some employees who chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In August, Brown announced that all employees in health care settings and those involved in education must be vaccinated by Oct. 18.
The Department of Corrections does not yet have numbers specifically related to each institution, but overall, 67% of the department's more than 4,400 employees are vaccinated. Of the rest, 35 employees received medical exceptions, 834 received religious exemptions, about 600 are still in the process of being verified either for vaccination or exception.
"Those with exceptions will be required to wear N95 faces coverings at all times," says DOC spokesperson Betty Bernt. "They will perform their duties as usual."
The union that represents most DOC security employees signed an 11th hour Letter of Agreement with the Department of Administrative Services on Friday, Oct. 15. The agreement allows people who have started the vaccination process a grace period until Nov. 30 to become fully vaccinated.
Job losses reported in Central Oregon
The St. Charles Health Care System experienced the most dramatic fallout. So far this month, 180 caregivers have left the system. Of that group, 134 quit the week leading up to the mandate deadline.
"We can't be certain how many of those 180 caregivers left the organization because of the mandate," said Vice President of Human Resources Rebecca Berry. "But we believe most of those who left us last week were impacted by this rule."
So far at the Jefferson County Fire District No. 1, 83% of the personnel are vaccinated, 15% filed for exceptions, and 2% have chosen to leave.
"Anytime you lose a 10-year volunteer, it is difficult to fill that void," says acting Fire Chief Kasey Skaar. "We have lost a 10-year volunteer who works as a full-time firefighter for another organization." Skaar says this person helped train new volunteers.
He says the district is always looking for new volunteers. "Our volunteers are the backbone of this organization, and anytime we lose one, it hurts."
Most of the 42 staff members at Jefferson County EMS are vaccinated. Three have received religious exemptions, two will be suspended. Chief Mike Lepin says those two are inactive, part-time staff. Their departure will not impact current operations.
Of the 453 employees of the Jefferson County School District 509-J, 77% are fully vaccinated, 20% submitted exception forms, and one has chosen to leave the district.
Some district employees are still finalizing their status. They're either waiting for documentation, have begun the vaccination process, or are on an approved leave and are not required to comply until their leave ends and they return to work.
"We are grateful to our staff for their efforts with this mandate," says 509-J Superintendent Jay Mathisen. "We are not experiencing a significant loss of employees."
Regardless of the vaccine mandate, Mathisen says the district is struggling to fill positions in its schools. They need bus drivers, food service workers, educational assistants, custodians and substitute teachers. "Joining our 509-J team is a rewarding experience," says Mathisen. "We need your help."
All 116 employees of the Culver school district comply with the mandate either by vaccination, medical or religious exception. "We are very blessed!" said District Superintendent Stefanie Garber.
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