203 state employees on leave for failure to get COVID-19 vaccine shots
Half of one percent of Oregon state government employees are on paid administrative leave for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain a religious or medical exemption to the requirement, state officials said Tuesday.
The 203 Oregon employees who are now staying home from work span 24 state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, state police and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, according to data provided by the state.
Oregon for about a week has struggled to tally the direct impact of the vaccine mandate. The agency-by-agency numbers released Tuesday show that impact has been uneven.
Just one agency, the Department of Corrections, accounts for more than 40% of the off-work employees. With roughly 4,500 people on the agency’s payroll, the nearly 90 workers on leave account for 2% of the workforce.
The department’s 13 prisons continue to operate “normally,” a spokesperson for the agency said in an email, with some staff temporarily repurposed to make up for the shortfall.
Of the 88 employees the agency said are on paid leave, 28 have shown they are fully vaccinated, spokesperson Jennifer Black said.
“We are working quickly to get them back to work,” Black said.
The next-hardest-hit agency is the Department of Transportation, with 26 employees on leave, followed by the Department of Human Services, with 14 people on leave. The agency leading Oregon’s response to the pandemic, the Oregon Health Authority, is now short only two employees on leave for failure to get COVID-19 shots or get approved for a medical or religious exemption.
Gov. Kate Brown set a requirement that all executive branch employees get fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. But unions negotiated grace periods that left the drop-dead deadline applicable to only about 5,000 workers, out of about 43,000 employees, contractors and volunteers subject to the mandate. The rest have until Nov. 30 but must have received their first shot or asked for an exception by Oct. 18.
— Fedor Zarkhin