The City of Portland and Multnomah County are mandating that their public employees be vaccinated to help slow the surges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the City of Portland’s case, employees can be fired for refusing, according to media reports.

Drive-Through Vaccination Clinic

This drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic was conducted in June at Clatskanie City Park in Clatskanie.

Would such a vaccination mandate be the next step for the City of of St. Helens and Columbia County’s public employees?

"No, the City of St. Helens is not considering a vaccination mandate at this time,” the city of St. Helens Communications Office Crystal King said. “As we have done from the beginning of the pandemic, we continue to rely on the guidance of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any statewide mandates issued by the Oregon Governor’s Office to shape our policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to King, as specific recommendations and mandates, such as mask wearing and physical distancing are updated, the city follow the recommendations issued by public health officials.

“We encourage the community to stay informed about the latest guidance issued by the OHA and CDC,” King said.

Official OHA updates and guidance about the pandemic can be found online at https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19. Resources in multiple languages, including Spanish, can be found at OHA’s Safe + Strong website at https://www.safestrongoregon.org/ or by calling 1-800-923-HELP (4357).

Clatskanie City Manager Greg Hinkelman said his city is also not ready to mandate city employee vaccinations.

“All but one city employee is vaccinated, and I think the one will be getting his soon,” Hinkelman said and added that Clatskanie continues to encourage people to follow the issued mandates and recommendations.

“Get a vaccine,” he said.

Rainier City Administrator Scott Jorgensen said his city is not considering such a vaccination mandate.

“Staff has not been directed by council to implement such policies,” Jorgensen said. “The city was awarded grant funds to make improvements to city hall that limit the physical interactions between staff and the general public. Citizens should continue to wear masks, engage in social distancing and limit their contact with others if they are sick.”

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners have not publicly discussed whether such a vaccination mandate for county employees is necessary.

“Columbia County strongly encourages its residents to get vaccinated but has no plans to mandate County employee vaccinations,” Columbia County Public Information Officer Mark Pacheco told The Chief. “Columbia County Commissioners are vigilantly watching the case counts and are determined to keep our community healthy.”

Columbia County Commissioners, the Public Health Department, and local partners have taken various actions to address the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to Pacheco.

The range of actions include:

• Instituting building safety measures such as installing clear acrylic partitions and encouraging social distancing.

• Several County departments have moved to an appointment-driven service model.

• Complying with the state-wide mask mandate.

• Maintaining active communications with health care professionals.

• Establishing vaccination and testing sites.

• Administering a program to provide vaccinations at places of business.

• Providing home visit vaccinations and transportation to testing and vaccination sites for those who require it.

• Managing contact tracing programs.

• Performing extensive awareness outreach in the form of social media, billboards, print, and radio; as well as attending many public events and festivals to provide information and vaccinations.

• Operating the Vax-Mobile, an SUV wrapped with vaccination advertising, which is used for county business and in local parades.

• Providing access to quarantine living for those who need it.

• Ensuring continued outreach to the Columbia County community.

"The priorities of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners continue to be maintaining a positive line of communication with the community, protecting public health and economic security, and providing reliable access to vaccinations and current information," Pacheco said. "We ask that everyone be safe, treat each other with civility and respect, and make responsible decisions as we continue to navigate through the pandemic."

State and local health officials said the steady, sharp rise in COVID-19 cases are primarily among those people who have not been vaccinated.

By the numbers

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) COVID-19 Weekly Report, released Sept. 1, shows continued increases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

OHA reported 16,252 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Aug. 23 through Sunday, Aug. 29. That represents a 10% increase over the previous week and the eighth consecutive week of increases.

There were 1,000 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, up from 601 last week. That also marked the eighth consecutive week of increases.

There were 119 reported COVID-19 related deaths, up from 87 reported the previous week and the highest weekly death toll since January 2021.

There were 160,605 tests for COVID-19 for the week of Aug. 22 through Aug. 28. The percentage of positive tests increased to 12.4%.

Free COVID-19 vaccinations are available at most pharmacies and health care clinics.

Follow new developments at thechronicleonline.com and in the Wednesday print versions of The Chronicle.

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