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Oregon, Washington COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline arrives for thousands of workers

Monday was the deadline for hundreds of thousands of workers in the Pacific Northwest to be vaccinated or lose their jobs.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Monday was the vaccine mandate deadline for hundreds of thousands of workers in the Pacific Northwest to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs. 

The governors of Oregon and Washington the Oct. 18 deadline for state employees, teachers and health care workers to be fully vaccinated. On that day, some groups opposed to the mandates were vocal about their thoughts. 

“It’s frustrating and it's sad that this is what authoritarianism looks like,” said Oregon firefighter Scott Steiner with the group Mandate Free Oregon.

Steiner spoke at a news conference near Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland. Health care workers were also present, such as a Happy Valley woman who was just fired from her job as a nurse. 

“And why? Not because I'm a bad nurse of did something wrong but because I refuse to get a vaccine that goes against my religious beliefs,” the woman said.

As of last week, Portland-based Legacy Health reported vaccination compliance had gone from 85% to 95% in its 14,000-person workforce since the mandate deadline was set in mid-August. Other health care systems saw similar results that suggest the mandates were effective. 

RELATED: Unvaccinated Legacy workers protest religious exemption denials; experts say denials should hold up

State officials have not released a specific number as to how many people in Oregon fall under the mandate, but The Oregonian/OregonLive estimates the number to be more than 200,000.

In Washington, 60,000 state workers, from public transit to Fish & Wildlife to the Department of Corrections, were required to be vaccinated by Monday, along with teachers and health care workers.

Late last week, Gov. Jay Inslee said a 92% vaccination rate among those workers should alleviate concerns over massive disruptions to state services. But that left 5,000 workers up against the deadline, including some Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers in Southwest Washington.

KGW spoke with two troopers at WSP's Vancouver headquarters just after they decided to end their careers with the agency over the mandate.

“I'm gonna miss everyone in that building, the best people in the world,” now-former trooper Bill Jordan said. 

Jordan cited his strong religious believes, among other reasons, kept him from getting the vaccine. He said he wanted to set an example for his children by standing for his convictions, but added that it stings to lose his job over it.

RELATED: How effective is natural immunity against COVID-19? Here's what experts say

“Between my service to the country and the citizens of the state of Washington, I've got over 25 years and trying to put it nicely, I guess it doesn't count for anything.”

Richard Thompson was a WSP sergeant until Monday. He said he's worried about the job loss and the impact it could have on public safety in Southwest Washington.

“In this district we are allowed or allocated 75 troopers; after tomorrow there will be 51 of 75.”

Thompson is leaving his law enforcement career because he believes the state has gone too far with a blanket mandate.

“For me personally, I am opposed to overreaching government," he said. "I and my coworkers have spent our entire careers, nearly 20 years, protecting people's rights and liberties and nobody's protecting ours. It's my choice. I'm not anti-vaccination, I'm anti-mandate."

As far as teachers, several districts in both states reported very high compliance with the mandate — close to 100% in some cases.

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