In Short

Oregon’s workplace safety officials will not pursue a vaccine mandate for large companies

By: - January 14, 2022 5:01 pm
Cropped hand wearing a nitrile glove holding a Covid-19 vaccine vial and a syringe.

Vaccine requirements will stay in place for state employees, schools and health care settings. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against a federal mandate on vaccines and testing for large companies means that the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division will not pursue a similar measure in Oregon.

Following Thursday’s decision, the state agency said it would “not move forward with adopting the same or similar standard in Oregon.”

The agency had been considering such a move. 

The justices did not block a vaccine requirement for health care workers at facilities that receive federal funds. State officials said that vaccine mandates for health care workers, state employees and schools will remain in effect in Oregon. 

Republican leaders in Oregon had been worried that the state would require large companies to enforce a vaccine mandate. On Thursday, House Republican leader, Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, in a tweet called on Oregon OSHA “to remove its strict and punitive Covid-19 mandates on private businesses and drop its plans for a permanent indoor mask mandate.”

Oregon’s mask requirements in public places, including at work, are not going away while Covid-19 infections are so high, the health authority said.

“Are we going tomorrow to eliminate mask requirements in the teeth of the worst surge of the pandemic? Probably not,” Patrick Allen, director of the agency, told a House committee on Thursday. He said, however, that the agency does not intend to keep the mask requirement forever. 

“I want to get to a place where we’re not requiring masks,” Allen said.  “We need to get to a different place in the pandemic than we are now.”

Allen said the public health requirements the agency put in place, including the mask requirement and vaccine mandates, were “done under our statutory established authority to control communicable disease that we’ve had for decades in public health.”

In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, Oregon OSHA said it is required to enforce rules from other state agencies aimed to protect the health and safety of workers. These include requiring “infection control planning, exposure risk assessments, sanitation and notification.”

Since the masking rules went into effect, Oregon OSHA has been investigating companies suspected of flaunting the requirement.

The statement added that Oregon OSHA has already removed most physical distancing requirements and relaxed sanitation provisions. 

“These moves reflect the fact that we have adapted our requirements as the pandemic and guidance have evolved,” the statement said.

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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