PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland is taking advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and instating a mandatory mask requirement for everyone who is in a city-owned or leased facility, effective July 28, 2021. It is also developing a plan for city employees, requiring them to show one-time proof of vaccination or take a weekly COVID-19 test, unless otherwise exempted.
On July 26, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) set a mask-wearing advisory for the state, strongly suggesting that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, continue to wear face coverings indoors as positive COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations spike once again due to the delta variant. The state of Oregon mandated that all students K-12 must wear a mask indoors on July 29.
However, as another precaution, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler’s office has taken the advisory a step further in the city’s buildings. His office also has its eye on further safety measures to protect city employees and those they encounter.
"As the Mayor of Portland, I am called to do whatever I can to keep our community as safe as possible," Wheeler said in a press release. "Therefore, I have directed Office of Management and Finance staff to develop a plan that requires all City employees show one-time proof of COVID-19 vaccination or take weekly COVID-19 tests."
The plan has not yet been developed but when it is, it will be sent to city council for approval. This effort is in the name of equity and an attempt to be sensitive to the vaccine disparity seen across minority groups and BIPOC communities. The city said previously that requiring vaccinations contradicts its "core values" and can contribute to the trauma of systemic racism.
The city employs more than 7,300 public employees who work in public facilities, parks and streets.
"It is my civic responsibility to take whatever safety measures are possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Requiring vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for all of the City’s public employees is the best way I can help protect our community," Wheeler said in a press release. "This decision was not made lightly. I have consulted with health authorities, leaders in other municipalities and several City colleagues on this matter and we strongly believe this is the best way we can help protect our community’s health and safety."
In the release, the city reminds the public that the best actions that can be taken to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 are to get vaccinated and wear a mask.
“It is clear that this pandemic is not over, and lives are still being lost to this deadly virus,” Wheeler's office said in a press release.
The delta variant, a more communicable strain of the virus, is making cases spike across the country and world. Health officials said that 80% of new COVID-19 cases in the state are now the delta variant.
While studies have shown that the vast majority of people being impacted are unvaccinated, a recent UK study shows that unvaccinated children, such as those too young to receive a vaccination, are 2.5 times more likely to get the virus. Wearing a mask, even if vaccinated, is the easiest way to protect those around you.