SALEM -- Facing a sharp surge in COVID-19 infections driven by the delta variant, Gov. Kate Brown Thursday ordered all K-12 educators, school staff and volunteers to be vaccinated, along with health care workers.
All those included in Thursday's order are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after full FDA approval, whichever is later.
The announcement reverses prior state policy which allowed for either vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing. The testing option has been eliminated.
Oregon is struggling with the rapidly spreading delta variation of the COVID-19 virus, which has increased daily infections from under 150 in early July to a record 2,139 cases reported on Wednesday.
The state is now averaging 1,925 cases per day. An Oregon Health & Science University report said the pace of increases will continue until the first week of September and is likely to leave the state 500 hospital beds short of demand.
The variant responsible for the spike in infections and hospitalizations won't recede until late October at the earliest, OHSU said. The Oregon Health Authority reported Wednesday that weekly numbers were among the highest since the pandemic reached Oregon in February 2020.
● 12,741 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 15. That's up 53% over the previous week.
● 546 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, up from 224 the previous week. It marked the fifth consecutive week of increases.
● 46 reported COVID-19 related deaths, up from 40 reported the previous week.
Though widespread vaccination of older residents and others most susceptible to severe illness has curbed the percentage of those killed by the virus, the current spike is spreading so rapidly that all indicators, including deaths, are on the rise.
Brown's order brings Oregon in line with California and Washington policies. Brown also underlined the need for masks and vaccinations in schools to protect children under 12, for whom there is no approved vaccine for now.
Several school districts and parent groups have balked at the mask requirement in recent days, with some going as far as to say they will disobey the mandate.
Brown said the state is taking steps such as sending National Guard troops to 20 hospitals in the state to support staff experiencing an torrent of new cases.
The National Guard units will include nurses, staff for temporary decompression units to free up bed space, and speeding the discharge of patients who no longer require hospital-level care so that new patients can be assigned to open beds.
This story is developing and will be updated