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

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 outside, regardless of their vaccination status, under the new guidance. However, the state is still recommending that people wear masks in crowded outdoor areas and at large gatherings, especially if they are unvaccinated or at high risk for COVID-19.

The state will also allow fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in most indoor public settings if their vaccination status can be verified, putting the onus on businesses, employers and faith institutions to check vaccination statuses and requiring that fully vaccinated individuals carry proof of vaccination to forgo masks indoors.

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

A state health official said last week that Oregon would be likely to require that businesses that offer mask-free shopping to fully vaccinated customers inspect vaccination cards and check the dates of individual shots.

At the time, business owners and unions expressed concerns about the new policy and criticized the state for failing to consider the burden it would be putting on frontline workers. Some small businesses said they would not feel comfortable checking customers vaccine cards.

“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.”

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 facilities.

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.

The announcement left Oregon scrambling to issue new guidance. Masks had been required in most circumstances across all of Oregon since July 1.

“Masks continue to save lives and protect people who are not vaccinated,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said in a statement. “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.”

Jamie Goldberg | jgoldberg@oregonian.com | @jamiebgoldberg

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