Fully vaccinated Oregonians no longer need to wear masks in most indoor public settings where vaccine status is being checked according to the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) new guidelines. The guidelines, announced Tuesday, also allow all Oregonians, regardless of vaccination status, to go without masks outside.
Per OHA’s new guidelines, businesses that choose to allow vaccinated people to not wear masks must have a policy of checking vaccination status, which means requesting proof of vaccination status from every individual prior to entry. An individual’s vaccination card or photo of their vaccination card can act as proof of vaccination.
If indoor settings are not checking vaccination status, masks will still be required for everyone inside. Masks will still be required for everyone on public transportation, health care settings, correctional facilities, shelters and transitional housing, public schools, and long-term care facilities.
While the new rules allow unvaccinated people to go maskless outside, the OHA still encourages people to wear masks at crowded outdoor events and continue social distancing.
These new guidelines follow Governor Kate Brown’s announcement last week that vaccinated Oregonians could stop wearing their masks in public, in accordance with the new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
The OHA’s guidelines state that if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or federal government release more strict rules on mask wearing than OHA, workplaces are required to follow the more strict guidelines.
In a media call Tuesday, state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said that these policies will be enforced on a complaint-basis, meaning OHA or OSHA will only investigate a workplace or business that may not be properly enforcing the masking guidelines if they receive a complaint.
OHA opted to implement the vaccine verification guidelines for businesses instead of relying on an honor system because of the state’s COVID-19 transmission rates and vaccination rates. In Oregon, about half of the population is vaccinated and the state still has one of the highest rates of new COVID cases in the country, Sidelinger said. Vaccine rates are also not spread equitably across racial and ethnic groups throughout the state.
“Some of our most impacted communities—our African American community and Latinx community—have not yet been vaccinated at the rate of white Oregonians,” Sidelinger said. OHA hopes to keep vulnerable populations safe while they begin their vaccination process while also allowing vaccinated people to return to normalcy, according to Sidelinger.
Following last week’s announcement that vaccinated people could forgo masks in public, some businesses expressed concern about having to become the “vaccine police.”
Sidelinger stressed that businesses have a choice to offer maskless shopping or not.
“We want to be very clear that businesses have a choice to continue operating under the guidance has been in place here in Oregon, or to adapt this new guidance to their place of business,” Sidelinger said. “For businesses that think this is too much of an administrative burden, or they don't want to be responsible for checking vaccination records, they don't have to review those records, they can continue to serve their customers and have their employees wear masks in these settings.”
While businesses who offer maskless shopping will be responsible for checking the dates of when an individual received their vaccines to make sure they are fully vaccinated, OHA does not expect businesses to check if a vaccination card is forged.
“We are not expecting businesses or others who are reviewing vaccine records to check for authenticity,” Sidelinger said. “We hope that Oregonians will not lie or cheat and put others at risk by forging a vaccine record if they are not vaccinated.”