PORTLAND, Day. (AP) – As all states in the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is ready to go in the opposite direction, with many residents cheating on it.
A senior health official is considering extending masks and social distance rules indefinitely in all state businesses.
The proposal will keep the rules in place as long as they are “no longer necessary to eliminate the effects of the epidemic in the workplace”.
Michael Wood, administrator of the State Department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move was necessary for a technical solution to state law that requires a “permanent” rule to prevent current restrictions from expiring.
“We are not out of the forest yet,” he said.
But the idea caused a flood of angry answers. Everyone, from parents to teachers, business owners and employees, is crying over the government’s overwhelming response.
Wood’s agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, with nearly 60,000 residents signing up against the proposal.
Opponents are frustrated that government officials will not say how low the Oregon COVID-19 incidence is or how many people need to be vaccinated to meet the requirements in a state that already has strict security measures in place.
“When will the masks be superfluous?” “On what scientific research are these mandates based, especially now that the vaccine is only a few days away from being available to everyone?” said Republican Republican Senator Kim Thatcher near the state capital. “Businesses have had to play ‘masked policeman’ for a good part of the year. They deserve some clarity when others do not threaten fines. ”
Wood said he was reviewing all responses to see if changes were needed before a final decision could be made by May 4, when the rules take effect.
Oregon, the blue state, was one of the country with the most severe COVID-19 restrictions and is now opposed to much of the nation as vaccines become more widely available.
At least six states – Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas – have withdrawn their mandate, and some have never. Businesses in Texas reopened 100% last month.
In January, Virginia became the first country in the country to adopt COVID-19 permanent occupational safety and health regulations.
“Until the end of this epidemic is finally visible, the virus is still spreading. Now is not the time to give up on preventative measures,” said Democratic Gov. Ralph Northham after the announcement.
In addition to mask removal requirements, the Oregon offer includes more attractive workplace rules regarding airflow, ventilation, employee notification, and sanitation protocols.
It is accompanied by separate actions by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, using a state of emergency to close businesses or reduce capacity when the number rises above a certain level.
More than a third of Oregon currently has limited public gatherings of six people, and the maximum occupancy of indoor canteens, indoor entertainment, and gyms is 25% capacity, or 50 people less. And many schools are reopening right now after a year of online education.
Wood said the workplace rule was “due to the epidemic, it will be abolished.”
“But there may not be a need to lift it when the state of emergency is lifted,” he said, referring to Brown’s executive orders.
Against the background of epidemic frustration and deprivation, the issue received a lot of attention. The anti-rule change.org website has garnered nearly 60,000 signatures and spread on social media, sparking even more interest in the offer. More than 5,000 public comments were sent to the agency, breaking the previous record of 1,100.
“Most of the comments were just hostile to the whole idea of COVID-19 restrictions,” Wood said. “The vast majority of comments were: ‘You never needed anything.’
Just Astin Spolding, a physician at the Cataract & Laser Institute in Southern Oregon, has raised concerns about the offer in public comments.
“I do not understand these new business guidelines. “If we bring them to life, we will only continue to blunt the recent decline in business,” he wrote. “We have a large subset of patients who do not want to (or) be hostile to existing guidelines; making them permanent will only make matters worse.”
The most troubling part for Thatcher, a GOP lawmaker, is the “failure of OSHA” as to when the rules will be lifted.
Officials said they had every intention of repealing the rule, and that the decision would be based on a complex mix of factors, including case counts, vaccination rates, severity, and Oregon health care advice.
“It will be a difficult assessment when we do it, I would say it is impossible to do in advance,” Wood said.