(CNS News) -- In an update to its “official masking guidance,” the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) said that businesses, employers, and churches may allow fully vaccinated persons to not wear masks in their establishments but, if they do that, the establishments must have a system in place to check the vaccination status of the persons, essentially a vaccine passport-type system.
If the businesses, employers, or churches do not set up a vaccination-check system, then they must require everyone to wear masks, said the OHA.
This alteration to the mask mandate was enacted on May 19 in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement on May 13, which stated that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting.”
Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, told KOBI 5 News, “Masks continue to save lives and protect people who are not vaccinated.” He added, “[h]owever, 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.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) is in agreement and has implemented several incentives to motivate Oregon citizens to get vaccinated, including a “Take Your Shot Campaign,” which enters vaccinated adults into a lottery to win up to $1 million.
She is hopeful that Oregon will reach her goal of having 70% of the state partially vaccinated by the end of June.
However, the OHA’s rule to have businesses check the vaccination status of their customers has sparked concern.
“To ask our employees to enforce a mask mandate under these new conditions or verify vaccine status at the door will further escalate confrontations in our communities and is simply not realistic,” Amanda Dalton, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, told The Oregonian.
On May 25, 10 national business associations, including the National Grocers Association and the Food Industry Association, signed a letter addressed to top officials in the Biden administration calling for protection against policies that would “place the burden of verifying vaccination on employees.”
“If Oregon’s policy remains in place or, worse yet, spreads to other jurisdictions, it will put America’s labor force at risk,” states the letter.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed legislation that bans vaccine passports and limits government overreach. “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” he said in a news release on May 3.
Following the CDC’s May 13 mask update, President Biden said there would be no federal enforcement of mask-wearing for those individuals who are not vaccinated. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection and the protection of the people who are also ⎯ have not been vaccinated yet,” he said. “It’s not an enforcement thing. We’re not going to go out and arrest people.”
Nevertheless, Brown and Allen are confident that this amendment to Oregon’s mask mandate will continue to push people in their state to get vaccinated. In an interview with National Public Radio host Scott Simon, Allen said, “We think we've created a speed bump, if you will, that will help encourage people to do the right thing.”
The rule from the Oregon Health Authority states, “Businesses, employers and faith institutions now have the option to adjust their masking guidance to allow fully vaccinated individuals to no longer wear a mask in their establishments. Businesses, employers and faith institutions doing so must have a policy in place to check the vaccination status of all individuals before they enter their establishment. Businesses, employers and faith institutions who do not create such policies will maintain the same masking guidance listed below, regardless of an individual's vaccination status.”
“If you have a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe or a disability that prevents you from wearing a mask, you can request an accommodation from the business or venue or transit authority,” said the OHA, adding that it does not recommend wearing a plastic face shield alone.