As a delta variant-fueled surge of COVID cases hit Oregon in August, Gov. Kate Brown mandated that all health care workers and school staff members in the state must be fully vaccinated or prove they have a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18.
This vaccination requirement extends to all health care workers, as well as all teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers in K-12 schools. People were able to apply for a medical or religious exemption.
Select firefighters, such as licensed EMSPs, are among those considered health care workers under Oregon Health Authority because they "routinely respond to 911 medical emergency calls and are the first on the scene, before an ambulance, and provide medical care."
With that deadline looming, some communities are voicing concern about being compliant come Monday. Fortunately, Sandy does not seem to be one of those communities.
At Oregon Trail School District, as of Oct. 13, fewer than 11 staff members districtwide had yet to prove exemption status or that they were fully inoculated against COVID-19.
Superintendent Aaron Bayer said those who aren't in compliance on Oct. 18 will be replaced, but that with numbers of unvaccinated or nonexempt staffers dwindling every day, he's not concerned that the district will have too much turnover.
"Right now, we're not too worried about that number (of noncompliant staff members) being too significant — not to say those people aren't significant," Bayer said. "We're confident we'll be able to move forward and keep schools in a brick-and-mortar setting and open. I think we have one charge (when it comes to this mandate) and that is to make sure the folks in our building are in compliance. We're confident that we will be able to operate and function face-to-face, full-time."
At Sandy Fire, Chief Phil Schneider said through vaccinations and exemptions, the department has just hit the 100% compliant mark.
"I hit (the importance of the vaccine) really hard early on to volunteers and paid staff," Schneider said.
The workforce at Sandy Fire is composed of about 45-50 people, paid and volunteer firefighters included. Of that, Schneider estimated that about 88%-90% are vaccinated and 10%-12% have a proven exemption, religious or medical.
"We're really fortunate," Schneider said, mentioning how larger stations have not fared so well with the mandate. "We had very few last minute running to get vaccinated."
The city of Sandy and city police department are not held to the same restrictions as the fire department and educators.
City Manager Jordan Wheeler said: "The city does not have a vaccine requirement or fall under any of the existing state or federal vaccine mandates."
According to the OHA's FAQ sheet, the rule of the mandate likely does not apply to most police officers. "While a police officer may have some medical training, or may even be a licensed health care provider, it is likely not a fundamental part of their job to provide direct or indirect medical care in a health care setting. If a police officer has a job that by definition requires them to provide medical care to individuals, then the rule likely does apply."
That said, the mandate does affect those working in dental care settings and pharmacies, and even people like licensed cosmetologists who provide services in a health care setting or long-term care facility.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.