PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Officials from the Oregon Health Authority released updated mask guidelines Tuesday, saying that businesses and churches can choose to no longer require masks and distancing for fully vaccinated people, but those places must have visitors show proof of vaccination.
In addition masks are no longer required outdoors, although health officials recommend that people continue to wear a mask in crowded areas and in large gatherings.
The new guidance follows a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement that fully vaccinated individuals could stop wearing masks and physical distancing in most public spaces.
Oregonians have been required to wear masks inside public spaces and outside since last summer.
K-12 students must still wear a mask in school, but the guidance appears to allow student-athletes to ditch the masks if they’re fully vaccinated.
Businesses and venue operators remain free to establish their own, more restrictive policies regarding mask usage.
The OHA has left it up to businesses to create a policy for checking the vaccination status.
Businesses across Central Oregon are still requiring masks despite the new guidance as they figure out the best way to police the situation.
That alone has sparked some controversy from those who misunderstand the federal privacy law known as HIPAA.
Businesses have the right to ask customers for vaccination records before allowing them in the store without masks.
Oregon’s Senate Republican Leader blasted the idea of what he called a “vaccine passport scheme.”
“Vaccine passports are completely contrary to Oregonians’ sense of privacy,” Sen. Fred Girod (R-Lyons) said. “In a democracy, having to present proper paperwork to engage in everyday activities is a complete violation of public trust and an invasion of privacy. This kind of dictatorial control over the everyday lives of Oregonians must stop. The Governor should immediately rescind this misguided edict and trust Oregonians.”
A “fully vaccinated individual” is a person who has received both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine and at least 14 days have passed since the individual’s final dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
And fully vaccinated individuals are still required to continue wearing a mask and observe physical distancing on public transportation and in schools, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, youth and adult correctional facilities and long-term care facilities.
The new guidance comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week announced that individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could stop wearing masks and stop physical distancing in most public spaces.
Brown announced later that day that Oregon would follow suit.
“Masks continue to save lives and protect people who are not vaccinated,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said Tuesday. “However, last week’s announcement from the CDC emphasizes the point that safe and effective vaccines are the very best way to protect people from getting and spreading COVID.” He added, “That’s why it’s safer for life to look more like normal for people who are fully vaccinated. And why people who haven’t had a chance to get vaccinated should do so as soon as they can.”
In addition, state health experts announced that face coverings are no longer required outdoors (regardless of vaccination status).