On Thursday, officials from the most populous county in Oregon,Multnomah, joined with Portland in exempting law enforcement from a COVID-19 vaccine order after county authorities determined that an immunization requirement for local cops is now legally suspect due to new state health authority instructions.
Local governments may only impose vaccination orders on police officers under Oregon law if a federal or state regulation compels them to do so. The county thought that Governor Kate Brown’s vaccine order for state healthcare employees, which was released last month, applied to officers since they received some medical training.
However, according to new rules from the Oregon Health Authority, law enforcement is “probably not” subject to the governor’s instructions since delivering medical care is “not a basic function of their job.”
On Thursday, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said she had no choice but to exempt deputy sheriffs, parole and probation officers because the state has restricted her options. She urged the state to force vaccinations for local police, allowing the county to go ahead with its own vaccination requirement that includes law enforcement.
The governor’s office has yet to respond to any inquiries regarding whether or how a legislative remedy is being considered.
The new recommendations from the health authority have generated uncertainty in Oregon’s largest city, where Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced on Wednesday that he would not be forcing the police force to get vaccinated.
Currently, state employees and volunteers in K-12 schools, health care personnel, and state workers are required to be completely vaccinated by October 18.