Portland Daily Round Up: Businesses uphold vaccine mandate despite Supreme Court ruling, Beaverton SD moving online

Emily Scarvie

(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

By Emily Scarvie

(PORTLAND, Ore.) Hello Portlanders! It's Friday, Jan. 14 - Here's your daily round up of all the news happening in the City of Roses.

1. Some Oregon businesses upholding vaccine requirements despite Supreme Court ruling

Despite the Supreme Court blocking the OSHA rule that businesses with more than 100 employees require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing, Columbia Sportswear is still requiring all employees in their corporate office to be vaccinated or submit an exemption by Feb. 1. The company announced that decision Thursday, prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I think they were signaling pretty strongly how they were going to come out, but it doesn’t change our commitment to the vaccination mandate for our headquarter employees at all,” Columbia Sportswear Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Richelle Luther told KATU. “It certainly would have made it easier if we think that we’re all in this together and working under the same rules.”

Nike is reportedly implementing a similar policy, but has not confirmed that yet. Other local businesses, like The Standard in downtown Portland, are requiring employees to show full proof of vaccination or a negative test result before working in person.

2. PPS emails educators amid reports of employees calling in sick to shut down schools

After reportedly receiving “regular reports” that district staff were coordinating absences in an effort to shut down schools, the Portland Public Schools District sent an email to educators Wednesday expressing that it’s “unlawful” to call in sick for illegitimate reasons.

Angela Bonilla, an Instructional Specialist at Scott Elementary School, told FOX 12 she was in awe when she received the email, and said this is a way for the district to deflect what they’re supposed to be working toward: keeping everyone safe.

“My initial reaction, like a lot of other educators, was frustration,” Bonilla said. “We’ve been on the front line, you know, working with our kids every single day. We were the ones dropping off computers and food and jackets and resources to kids when we were left kind of in the lurch before the district had a plan when we first went to RDL. We’ve been the ones on the ground and so the insinuation that we’re actively trying to not do our jobs was hurtful.”

President of the Portland Association of Teachers, Jessica Thiel, said teachers aren’t taking calling out sick lightly, and she’s concerned this message will pressure teachers to return to school whether they have symptoms or not.

3. Beaverton School District moving several schools to distance learning next Tuesday

Starting Tuesday, several schools within the Beaverton School District will move into distance learning amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and related staffing shortages. Beaver Acres, Errol Hassell and William Walker Elementary, Five Oaks Middle School, Community School and Passages will temporarily transition to distance learning on Jan. 18.

Other districts, including Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, North Clackamas, Reynolds and Salem-Kaizer Public Schools, have opted to close on Friday.

Portland Public Schools is extending online distance learning for Ockley Green Middle School, Roosevelt High School and Faubion pre-K through 8 through next Friday.

4. OSU researchers suggest omicron variant could bring COVID-19 to endemic levels

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said “just about everyone” will get infected with the highly transmissible omicron variant, and researchers are hoping the variant will act as the light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to researchers at Oregon State University, omicron could be the key to making COVID-19 endemic, meaning the infection is maintained at a baseline level, like a flu or cold virus.

Dr. Chunuei Chi, a professor for global health at OSU, told KOIN that despite other research arguing more time needs to pass, he believes the omicron variant could be the wave that helps turn COVID-19 endemic. Chi said experts should know more within the next few weeks.

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