Many states across the United States are easing their Covid-19 restrictions since the vaccine has become more widely available and is proving to be highly effective. The state of Oregon, on the other hand, is going in the complete opposite direction.
A top Oregon health official is considering a “permanent rule” that requires social distancing and the wearing of face masks inside.
The current mandate ends on May 4, but Michael Wood, the administrator of the state’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, wants to extend the mandate until “revised or repealed.”
The proposal says the permanent rule will be repealed once officials deem face masks no longer necessary.
Although the rule must be adopted as a permanent rule, its purpose is to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Oregon OSHA intends to repeal the rule when it is no longer necessary to address that pandemic. Because it is not possible to assign a specific time for that decision, Oregon OSHA will consult with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority, and other stakeholders as circumstances change to determine when all or part of the rule can be appropriately repealed.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” Wood said.
Wood also said that the proposal is “driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed,” but “it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the state of emergency is lifted.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) extended the state’s Covid-related state of emergency in late February. The state has some of the most strict Covid restrictions in the country.
Wood will make a final decision about permanently extending the mask mandate by May 4.
Wood’s office has had “a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal,” according to the Associated Press.
“When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone? Businesses have had to play ‘mask cop’ for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines,” state Sen. Kim Thatcher (R) said.
Over a quarter of Americans are fully vaccinated. Still, pandemic leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci claim that face masks and social distancing are still necessary even for people who are now immune to the virus.
“My view is, if you get a vaccine, the vaccines are effective, you’re immune. And so act immune,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said.