Facing a sharp surge in COVID-19 infections that threatens to swamp Oregon hospitals, Gov. Kate Brown ordered a double dose of mandatory vaccination mandates on Aug. 19.
All K-12 educators, school staff and volunteers must be vaccinated no later than Oct. 18.
“COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids, and our kids need to be protected and they need to be in school,” Brown said.
A second mandate with the same deadline would apply to doctors, nurses, emergency medical teams and other health care workers.
The mandates have a deadline far beyond the projected Sept. 3 peak of the current spike in cases.
Brown said there were no current plans for earlier actions, such as restoring pandemic restrictions on businesses and gatherings, or curbing big events upcoming events such as the Oregon State Fair, the Pendleton Round-Up or Oregon Ducks football games.
“Everything is on the table,” Brown said, using a frequently invoked phrase to leave open options if the pandemic trends shift again.
State health officials know that they have an explosion of COVID-19 cases with a likelihood that the problem will only grow over the next two weeks.
Daily infections have exploded in the past six weeks, going from under 150 in early July to a record 2,971 cases reported Aug. 19. The state is now averaging 2,025 cases per day.
The Oregon Health Authority has reported that hospitals are nearly full, with 93% of staffed adult hospital beds in Oregon occupied and 94% of staffed adult ICU beds across the state are full.
The Oregon Health & Science University COVID-19 forecast for Aug. 18 said the pace of increases will continue until Labor Day weekend and is likely to leave the state 500 hospital beds short of demand. “The fifth wave of the pandemic in Oregon remains much more severe than previous surges,” said Peter Graven, a top OHSU data scientist.
On Aug. 18, the percentage of COVID-19 tests that were positive was 13.8%, a rate that indicates exponential growth of infections. A rate of 5% is considered the top end to manage impacts on public health.