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Oregon mistakenly gives news outlets vaccine information for 40,000 state employees

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A state administrative agency in Oregon on Monday mistakenly released the vaccination status of more than 40,000 state employees to news organizations in what is being called a "breach of trust."

A communications manager at the Oregon Department of Administrative Services sent a spreadsheet to the Oregonian/OregonLive and the Salem Statesman Journal Monday that contained the vaccination status for all executive branch employees, as well as whether they received a medical or religious exemption from the state's vaccine mandate. The spreadsheet also indicated whether an employee's vaccination record or exemption request is still being processed or if the employee had not submitted any information.

Other personal information, like home addresses or Social Security Numbers, was not included in the file.

In August, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order requiring that all executive branch employees — as well as education and health care workers — be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday at midnight or lose their jobs. The news organizations had requested information on the latest vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates for each executive agency as the mandate went into effect yesterday.

Instead, Oregon Department of Administrative Services external relations director Adam Crawford sent them the spreadsheet disclosing the private vaccination status of tens of thousands of state employees.

"It's a mistake on my part," Crawford told the Oregonian/OregonLive. In a follow-up email with the Statesman Journal, he provided the newspaper with a redacted version of the spreadsheet and asked that personal information not be reported.

Neither news outlet disclosed the personal information of Oregon state employees.

Still, a spokesman for Oregon's Public Services & Care Provider Union said the release of that information violates an agreement the union signed with the state in September to keep employees' vaccination information confidential.

"More concerning is that one of the main things that we heard from members who were vaccine hesitant is they were concerned about their privacy in this situation. This is a breach of trust at the worst possible time," SEIU 503 spokesman Ben Morris told the Oregonian/OregonLive.

The outlet reported that large state agencies with low verified vaccinated rates among their employees include Oregon State Police (74%), the Department of Corrections (70%) and the Forestry Department (65%). The corrections department has granted religious exemptions to 19% of its employees, and the state police agency has done so for 14% of its workers.

Thousands of state workers in Oregon and neighboring Washington face job termination if they do not comply with the states' vaccine mandates, which both went into effect on Oct. 18.

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