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As New York City and California Require a COVID-19 Vaccine or Weekly Tests for Public Employees, Oregon Takes a Wait-and-See Approach

Gov. Kate Brown also didn’t recommend indoor masks across the state as Multnomah County now does.

As New York City and California moved to require their public employees to get a vaccine or, alternately, a weekly COVID-19 test, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is taking a wait-and-see approach, relying on counties to make the tough calls to halt the rise of COVID-19.

WW contacted Brown’s office about two policies announced today by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Both sidestep a vaccine mandate by including an alternative for the unvaccinated: COVID-19 testing at least once weekly for city and state employees, if they are not vaccinated. (Unvaccinated employees will also be required to wear a mask indoors.)

“Like many states, Oregon has a unique set of state laws and policies that impact decisions related to mandatory vaccinations,” says Brown spokesman Charles Boyle. ”We are also examining the actions taken this week by California, New York City, and the VA, and determining what further actions can be taken in Oregon.”

When asked if the governor’s office recognized the New York and California policies were not a mandate, Boyle said, “That’s one of the aspects of their actions we’re examining.”

But a significant vaccine requirement was unveiled today by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also announced today that VA health care workers have eight weeks to get a vaccine. (Oregon has a law barring most hospitals from requiring vaccinations of doctors and nurses.)

Also on July 26, Multnomah County announced it is recommending indoor masks for everyone, vaccinated or not—which is a departure from previous policy but in line with recommendations from officials in California and Washington state.

There was no such recommendation statewide in Oregon.

“Local county and city leaders have a role to play in helping to curb transmission rates,” says Boyle. “In counties with low vaccination rates, we are strongly recommending that local leaders consider implementing temporary measures such as masks and physical distancing to slow the spread of the Delta variant––and that they make a strong push to increase their vaccination rates.”

Boyle also praised Multnomah County’s recommendations, even as the county has one of the highest vaccine rates in the state.

“Nothing in the governor’s recovery order prevents local governments or school districts from exercising their authority, including requiring masks or physical distancing, as we shift back to decision-making at the local level,” he adds. “While all options remain on the table to stop the spread of the Delta variant, locally driven response efforts are what is needed at this stage in the pandemic and are key to protecting the communities most impacted right now.”