Oregon Changes Temporary Rule Requiring Healthcare Worker Vaccinations
On August 5, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) adopted a temporary rule on an emergency basis requiring healthcare providers and healthcare staff who work in healthcare settings to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face periodic COVID-19 testing by September 30, 2021. Employers of healthcare workers had until September 30 to create and implement compliant policies. The rule applies to any individuals who work, learn, assist, or volunteer in a “healthcare setting” and who are “providing direct patient or resident care” or could be exposed to patients, residents, or infectious materials. “Healthcare setting” is any place where physical or behavioral health is delivered.
In a further effort to curb Oregon’s sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the ensuing weeks, on August 25, 2021, the OHA changed the temporary rule to require full vaccination by October 18, 2021, and removed the periodic testing requirement altogether, as required by an executive order from Governor Kate Brown. The temporary rule requires healthcare workers in healthcare settings to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide their employer with documentation of a medical or religious exception on or before October 18, 2021. According to the rule, “[a] medical exception must be corroborated by a document” on a form prescribed by OHA and “signed by a medical provider … certifying that the individual has a physical or mental impairment that limits the individual’s ability to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” and whether that impairment is temporary or permanent. A religious exception must be corroborated by a document on an OHA-authorized form “signed by the individual stating that the individual is requesting an exception from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief and including a statement describing the way in which the vaccination requirement conflicts with the religious observance, practice, or belief of the individual.”
In addition, by October 18, 2021, employers of healthcare providers and healthcare staff must have documentation showing that staff are in compliance with the above requirements. Employers must maintain vaccination documentation and documentation of medical or religious exceptions for at least two years and provide them to OHA upon request. After October 18, healthcare providers and healthcare staff who are unable to prove that they are fully vaccinated, or present documentation of a medical or religious exception, will not be able to “work, learn, study, assist, observe, or volunteer in a healthcare setting.” Likewise, employers of healthcare providers and healthcare staff “may not employ, contract with, or accept the volunteer services of healthcare providers or healthcare staff persons” unless such individuals are fully vaccinated or have presented documentation of a medical or religious exception. Any person who violates the rule on or after the compliance deadline may face “civil penalties of $500 per day per violation.” The revised temporary rule will remain in effect through January 31, 2022. Employers may also consult OHA’s guidance for additional information.