SALEM, OR (KPTV) - A new rule announced by Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday will require employees in health care settings statewide to either undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 or verify their vaccination status.

The new rule, which will be issued this week, won't go into effect until Sept. 30. The governor's office said this will "give employers time to prepare from implementation and will give currently unvaccinated health care workers time to become fully vaccinated." The rule was implemented to help prevent the Delta variant spread, according to the governor's office. Cases of COVID-19 are on rise across the country with the Delta variant spreading rapidly. 

"The more contagious Delta variant has changed everything. This new safety measure is necessary to stop Delta from causing severe illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students, and frontline health care workers. Protecting our frontline health care workers through vaccination will also enhance the safety of the patients in their care," Brown said in a statement. "Severe illness from COVID-19 is now largely preventable, and vaccination is clearly our best defense. Vaccination and weekly testing ensure Oregonians can safely access health care and employees can go to work in an environment that maximizes health and safety measures for COVID-19."

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The governor's office said the rule applies broadly to personnel in health care settings who direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials. Brown is encouraging other public and private employers in the state to implement measures to facilitate their employees' access to COVID-19 vaccines. PeaceHealth, Legacy and Kaiser Permanente announced this week they will require vaccinations for employees.

"As we have throughout this pandemic, we are learning to adapt to the new reality the Delta variant has created. I am encouraging Oregon cities, counties, businesses, and employers to think creatively, and to implement measures such as paid time off for vaccination, and incentives for employees, in addition to instituting masking requirements and other health and safety measures in the workplace. I am doing the same with the State of Oregon’s workforce, and I expect employers to find ways to remove barriers to easy access to vaccination," Brown stated.

Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, applauded Brown's action to take steps to protect patients.

"Throughout the pandemic, Oregon’s hospitals have been committed to safeguarding the health of our patients, visitors and workers. We support today’s action by Governor Brown, which will require health care workers in Oregon to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly for the virus. With these additional tools we can better respond to this evolving pandemic and provide the safest possible environment for those who depend on us," Hultberg said in a statement.

The Oregon Nurses Association also praised the decision, calling it a "reasonable and sensible approach which respects the individual choices of health care workers while also protecting public health."

Employment-related vaccination requirements are generally allowed under state and federal law. However, state law currently prohibits employers from independently mandating vaccines for certain limited categories of workers, including health care workers. The governor's office said Brown plans to work with stakeholders and legislators to address that issue during the Feb. 2022 session.

In addition to the new rule for health care workers, Brown announced last week that masks would be required inside all state agency buildings for employees and visitors. Masks will also be required in all Oregon K-12 schools and all public schools in Washington starting this fall.

MORE: FOX 12's ongoing coronavirus coverage

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