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Vaccine mandates for K-12 school staff in Oregon and Washington are among the strictest in the country

The KGW Verify team found nine states with COVID vaccine rules for educators, but most allow staff to submit to regular testing, while Oregon and Washington do not.

PORTLAND, Ore — All K-12 school staff in Oregon and Washington must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or they could lose their jobs. 

That leaves educators one month to get the vaccine, otherwise they'll need an approved medical or religious exemption to remain unvaccinated. 

RELATED: Portland law professor examines religious exemptions from COVID vaccine mandates

We continue to get a lot of questions about the mandates in Oregon and Washington, especially when it comes to school staff. 

A lot of people are wondering: how do the mandates for educators in the Pacific Northwest compare to the rest of the country?

THE QUESTION

Is it true that Oregon is the only state that will fire educators if they do not receive the COVID vaccine?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, Oregon is not the only state that will fire educators for not being vaccinated. K-12 school staff in Washington state are also required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18, otherwise they could lose their job.   

WHAT WE FOUND

The KGW Verify team found nine states that require K-12 school staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Of those, only Oregon and Washington do not allow educators to undergo weekly testing in lieu of being vaccinated. 

Rules in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York allow teachers to remain unvaccinated if they submit to regular COVID testing.

According to the rules issued in Oregon and Washington last month, school staff could be terminated if they do not get the COVID vaccine or an approved exemption by the Oct. 18 deadline.  

That makes the vaccine requirements for school staff in the Pacific Northwest some of the strictest in the country.

RELATED: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Other major cities and school districts have enacted their own vaccine mandates, even as their states have chosen not to do so. 

In Washington D.C., all adults who work closely with children must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 and there is no test-out option.  

Some school districts are going a step further, requiring eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Unified School District became the first major school district in the country to mandate the vaccine for students 12 and older. 

As of right now, the rules in Oregon and Washington only apply to staff, not eligible students. 

Oregon school districts that refuse to comply with the state's vaccine requirements could face fines, according to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

“The Oregon Health Authority has authority in state statute to levy civil penalties against a school district or an employer who fails to follow these requirements,” said ODE Director Colt Gill in a press conference last month.

Requirements for school staff in states without mandates could change in the coming weeks. Earlier this month, President Biden announced vaccine requirements for federal employees and employers with over 100 workers. 

That rule will likely apply to school staff in some states but those details are still being worked out. 

Do you have something you want us to Verify? Email us at Verify@kgw.com  

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