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Momentum Builds in Oregon for Vaccine Mandates

Kaiser Permanente is moving to require a vaccine of employees even though Oregon law protects health care workers from an employee mandate.

The health care giant Kaiser Permanente announced Aug. 2 it will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19—including its 13,500 employees in Oregon, where a 1989 law exempts health care workers from employers’ vaccine mandates.

Nonetheless, Kaiser is proceeding.

“We will act to apply the vaccination requirement in the Northwest region,” reads an email from Jeff Collins, Kaiser’s Northwest president. “We are taking steps, including working with the Oregon Health Authority and the governor, to support vaccination to the fullest extent permitted by law and any future guidance.”

What that means: Beginning Aug. 23, unvaccinated workers will be required to be tested twice a week. Under a policy that allows religious and medical exemptions, the “target date” for workers to become fully vaccinated is Sept. 30.

Pressure on Gov. Kate Brown, including from the Kaiser announcement and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems’ push for employer mandates, has been building.

State Reps. Lisa Reynolds and Maxine Dexter, both doctors and Democrats from Portland, have publicly endorsed changing the law to allow health care employers to mandate vaccines.

And last week, the politically powerful long-term care industry group, the Oregon Health Care Association, came out in favor of changing the law.

Multiple sources say they expect an announcement from the governor as soon as Aug. 4, though it’s not clear what she will decide.