Summary: The Protection from COVID-19 Act directs health agencies to ensure that vaccine is accessible to all and requires both elected officials and government employees to be vaccinated, with only narrowly-drawn exceptions.
Based on: Oregon Executive Order 21-29, the Presidential Executive Order of September 9, 2021, and in compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s technical assistance on religious accommodations.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Protection from COVID-19 Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
1) Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an ongoing public health crisis across our state. More than [XX,XXX] residents have died from this deadly disease and more than [XX,XXX] others have been hospitalized.
2) The first strains of this coronavirus were severe and contagious. Unfortunately, in mid-2021 our state was hit with the Delta variant, which was dramatically more contagious than the original. In December 2021, the state was overrun with the Omicron variant, which is even more contagious than the Delta.
3) Fortunately, vaccines became available free of charge to our residents in the early months of 2021. We have now vaccinated more than [X,XXX,XXX] residents with at least one dose, and of these, more than [X,XXX,XXX] have completed two doses. Put another way, more than [XX] percent of adult residents have taken one of the vaccines.
4) The vaccines approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration have proven extremely safe and effective. Even when residents become infected after vaccination, called a “breakthrough” infection, they are far more protected from severe disease than people who go unvaccinated.
5) The vast majority of patients hospitalized with, or have died from, COVID-19 are unvaccinated. It is imperiling the state health system’s ability to manage not just COVID-19 patients, but also those who require specialized medical care after car accidents, heart attacks, and other medical emergencies.
6) At all times, but especially during a public health crisis, protecting the health and safety of residents is among the most important functions of government. Based on the best available public health information, in order to protect our families and communities, it is vital that as many residents as possible get vaccinated, as quickly as possible.
7) It is also vital that residents are not unnecessarily put at risk when interacting with state officials and employees. Public servants must be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect the health and safety of everyone within the state.
SECTION 3. PROTECTION FROM COVID-19
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:
(1) “COVID-19” means a disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
(2) “Elected official” means any person who holds a state elected office, whether they were elected or appointed to that office.
(3) “Fully vaccinated” means having received both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19. However, the [Department of Health] may change the definition of “fully vaccinated” in the case that supplemental doses become the best practice in public health.
(4) “Proof of vaccination” means documentation provided by a federal, state, local or tribal government, or a healthcare provider, that includes the individual’s name, date of birth, type of COVID-19 vaccinations given, date or dates given, and the name and location of the healthcare provider or site where the vaccination was administered.
(5) “State employee” means any person employed by the executive, legislative or judicial branches of the state government, but does not include individuals whose only work for the government is as a volunteer and whose compensation is limited to a stipend, per diem, or reimbursement of expenses.
(B) VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19
(1) The [Department of Health], working with healthcare providers across [State], shall do everything practical to persuade residents to become fully vaccinated. This effort shall include work to make such vaccines accessible to all who are old enough for a federally-approved vaccine.
(2) Except as provided in section (C), no state employee shall be permitted to engage in work for the government after [Month XX, 2022] if the state employee is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, documented with proof of vaccination.
(3) Except as provided in section (C), any elected official who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, documented with proof of vaccination, after [Month XX, 2022] shall be suspended from office and unable to take any action or draw any salary or expenses as an elected official until she or he becomes fully vaccinated.
(C) EXCEPTIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
(1) The state government shall make reasonable accommodations in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and state law equivalents, for individuals unable to be vaccinated due to disability, qualifying medical condition, or a sincerely held religious belief.
(2) The [General Services Administration] shall create a clear process for written applications and decisions concerning individual requests for exceptions or accommodations. The application form shall include questions which are as unintrusive as possible but which address whether the applicant has, in the past, acted inconsistently with the reasons stated in the application. The decision process shall permit decisionmakers, when there is a valid and objective reason, to request more information from an applicant.
(3) Individuals who are found to be exempt from the vaccination requirement, or are waiting for a decision on their request for an exception or accommodation, shall undergo two-times-per-week testing for COVID-19, or more frequent testing if the [Department of Health] finds more frequent testing has become the best practice in public health.
(1) A state employee who fails to comply with this vaccine requirement will be suspended from their job without pay and be given 60 days to come into compliance before procedures for discharge from employment shall begin.
(2) An elected official who fails to comply with this vaccine requirement shall, after 60 days of noncompliance, constitute an automatic resignation from office.
If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid for any reason in a court of competent jurisdiction, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or any other application of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and for this purpose the provisions of this act are declared severable.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on July 1, 20XX.