LA and Chicago Schools Impose Vaccine Mandates for Teachers, But Portland Remains Indecisive

The 2021-2022 school year is facing issues like no other before it. Debates continue to rage between parents and educators over how to reopen schools safely as the Delta Variant continues to spread Since kids under 12 still remain ineligible for the vaccines, many school districts in major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago are requiring all teachers to get vaccinated to help contain any viral spread, as well as requiring masks for all students. An Education Week survey published this week found that 86% of teachers across the country are fully vaccinated. In addition to school districts, large national employers such as Walmart, Google, and United Airlines have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for returning workers.

The highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus has driven infections and hospitalizations to all-time highs in some Southern states, so much so that “pandemic of the unvaccinated” has become Biden administration shorthand for the latest wave. But it has also begun to hammer states with relatively high rates of vaccination, like Oregon and Hawaii.

Costa Mesa, CA – May 17: An anti-mask rally outside the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, CA, on Monday, May 17, 2021. More than 200 people came out to protest children in school being forced to wear masks. “n(Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Friday that the state will deploy at least 500 National Guard troops to help its hospitals deal with a flood of coronavirus patients as the state faces its largest wave of infections in the pandemic. However, schools in Portland and other areas have still not mandated that teachers get vaccinated. A survey taken of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) in March found that 90% of the union’s 4,500 members had gotten at least one shot and 7% intended to do so.

Portland Public Schools (PPS), whose employees will face thousands of unvaccinated children when in-person classes resume September 1st, has not broached the subject with its teachers. In a communication sent to parents on August 5th, PPS detailed its plans for masks (they will be required), hygiene, and distancing when schools reopen, but that message was silent on vaccine mandates.

Oregon narrowly surpassed its highest previous average, reaching a seven-day average of 1,540 cases on Thursday, according to a New York Times database. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations have risen nearly 130 percent in Oregon and 140 percent in Hawaii. This week Governor Brown announced a statewide indoor mask mandate, which took effect on Friday. Under the new rules, everyone older than 5 needs to wear a mask in most indoor settings; children older than 2 will need to wear them on public transportation.

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