August 23, 2021 -- As students head back to school this fall, several cities and states are implementing new requirements for teachers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Thursday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that teachers, staff, and volunteers must get a shot, reversing an earlier decision that individual districts would decide whether vaccines would be required.
Staff, faculty, and volunteers won’t be able to opt out of the vaccination requirement unless they have a documented medical or religious exemption. Oregon isn’t yet considering vaccination requirements for students.
“COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids, and our kids need to be protected, and they need to be in school,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m willing to take the heat for this decision.”
Brown’s announcement came a day after Portland Public Schools, the largest school district in Oregon, said that all its educators must be vaccinated by Sept. 1, the newspaper reported. Across Oregon, teachers must be immunized by Oct. 18.
Also on Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that school and university employees must be vaccinated, including public, private, and charter school employees. They could be fired if they aren’t fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
“This is a serious issue,” Inslee said. “This is not some suggestion or whimsical idea we’re floating. It is a job requirement.”
Washington’s requirement also includes school staff, such as bus drivers, coaches, and volunteers. Employees can receive an exemption for religious or medical reasons, but “personal or philosophical exemptions” don’t apply, Inslee said. He also announced a new indoor mask mandate for ages 5 and older, which will go into effect on Monday.
The announcements from West Coast states mark the latest steps by officials to increase COVID-19 protections in classrooms as record-breaking coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge due to the contagious Delta variant. Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered teacher vaccinations or weekly testing by Oct. 15..
Other states are expected to implement vaccine requirements in the coming days as well. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is slated to make an announcement as soon as Monday. It’s not yet clear whether New Jersey will allow teachers to opt for weekly testing in lieu of a shot.
Elsewhere in the country, major cities and school districts are also requiring teachers to get vaccinated. New York City will require teachers to be immunized by the time school starts on Sept. 13 or undergo weekly testing.
So far, about 60% of New York City’s education department employees have received at least one dose, the news outlet reported. City officials haven’t yet said whether teachers in city-contracted but privately run preschools must follow the new requirement.
“This is about our recovery…This is about keeping people safe,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in late July. “September is the pivot point of the recovery.”