Oregonians can go maskless outside, must show proof of vaccination to forgo masks indoors, state says

The new guidance will be enforced by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division and other state agencies


By Jamie Goldberg
oregonlive.com
        
SALEM — Oregon will allow people to go maskless outside but will require them to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and be able to prove it — to forgo masks in most public indoor settings.

That’s according to new guidance released by the Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday.

Oregonians will no longer be required to wear masks in public outdoor areas, regardless of their vaccination status, under the new guidance. However, the state is still recommending that people wear masks in crowds and large gatherings, especially if they are unvaccinated or at high risk for COVID-19.

Receptionist Maribel Hidalgo displays her vaccination card after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro, Oregon, on January 8, 2021.
Receptionist Maribel Hidalgo displays her vaccination card after receiving the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro, Oregon, on January 8, 2021. (Brooke Herbert)

The state will also allow fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in most indoor spaces if their inoculation status can be verified, putting the onus on businesses, employers and faith institutions to check vaccination records.

The new guidance comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that fully vaccinated people generally do not need to wear masks or maintain physical distance in most public settings. Masks had been required in most circumstances across all of Oregon since July 1.

Some states have responded cautiously to the new guidance and have not yet lifted mask mandates.

However, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s health officer and epidemiologist, said he wasn’t specifically aware of other states that had adopted similar “vaccine passport” requirements as Oregon has opted to do.

Sidelinger said vaccinated individuals will be required to show their vaccine cards, or provide a photocopy or photo of their vaccine cards, to forgo masks in public indoor settings.

He said the new guidance would be enforced by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division and other state agencies, but added that the state was not expecting businesses to determine the authenticity of customers’ vaccine records.

“We hope that Oregonians will not lie or cheat and put others at risk by forging a vaccine record if they aren’t vaccinated,” Sidelinger said.

Oregon will still require all people, including those who have been fully vaccinated, to wear masks and maintain physical distance on public transportation and in schools, healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, long-term care homes and correctional institutions.

Businesses and venue operators that don’t want to check vaccination cards, or that want to maintain more restrictive policies, will still be allowed to require masks at their discretion, according to the state.

“They can continue to serve their customers and have their employees wear masks in these settings,” Sidelinger said. “For a business that wants to serve their customers in a different way by allowing them to remove their masks if they’re fully vaccinated, or have their staff be able to remove their mask if they’re fully vaccinated, they need to institute a system where individuals can share their vaccination status.”

However, business owners and unions expressed concern last week that the state would be putting too much of a burden on frontline workers and small businesses by requiring them to check vaccine records.

“Once again, the OHA has put essential employees in the position of enforcers of public policy without giving them the tools to protect themselves or the public,” said Miles Eshaia, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 555, which represents grocery store workers at Fred Meyer, Safeway and Albertsons. “Telling essential employees to be the mask police and asking customers for their medical information puts them in harm’s way and is insulting after months of ignoring the needs and safety of the people who put food on our tables.”

Some small businesses said last week that they wouldn’t feel comfortable verifying customers’ vaccination statuses. And Oregon’s Enchanted Forest amusement park announced Monday that it would delay its reopening plans after some people responded to its decision to continue to require masks with threats and angry comments.

Sidelinger said that the state will reevaluate its mask guidance and other health restrictions when 70% of the state’s residents 16 and older have been vaccinated, echoing a roadmap laid out by Gov. Kate Brown earlier this month.

“I would anticipate a significant change in our guidance as we reach that 70% threshold,” Sidelinger said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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