Oregon officials were reportedly considering making the state’s stringent workplace mask mandates permanent. However, other states, such as Florida and Texas, had lifted theirs in the wake of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus or COVID-19 vaccine launch.
According to the plan, the liberal state must keep the laws in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”
The step contrasted with Republican states, which have recently relaxed mask restrictions in at least six of them. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently declared his state of being “available 100 percent.”
According to Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health, the change was necessary to remedy a technicality in state law that required a “permanent” regulation to prevent existing restrictions from expiring.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said.
In November, Oregon passed an emergency law that allows the state’s health department to enforce mask standards and social distancing in the workplace. The latest emergency orders will expire on May 4 and will not be renewed for another 180 days.
On the other hand, Wood wanted to make the law permanent, meaning the state will no longer be bound by the 180-day deadline. He claims that the law will be abolished in due course because it is “inspired by the pandemic.”
“But, it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the State of Emergency is lifted,” he said, refusing to provide a timeframe for when that might be. “It will be a complicated assessment when we do it, and I would say it is impossibly complicated to do in advance.”
Case counts, vaccination rates, case seriousness, and recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority will all play a role in the decision.
But the idea has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying “government overreach.”
Wood’s agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.
Opponents are also frustrated that government officials have refused to specify how low Oregon’s COVID-19 case numbers must fall or how many citizens must be vaccinated for the standards to be removed. The state already has some of the strictest protection measures in the nation.
“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?” said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, near the state’s capital. “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.”
Until making a final decision by May 4, when the current rules expire, Wood said he is analyzing all of the feedback to see if any changes are needed.
In addition to the occupational mask requirement, there are regulations in effect about indoor ventilation, employee notification in the event of an outbreak, and more.
President Joe Biden has slammed Texas and Mississippi governors for removing all their CCP Virus (coronavirus) restrictions and reopening 100% of their businesses, calling their decisions “Neanderthal thinking.”
“It’s a big mistake,” Biden said on Wednesday, March 3, after reporters asked about the two states announcing they will lift their mask mandates and all capacity limits on businesses a day earlier.
“I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” he told the reporters in the Oval Office.
“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters,” Biden added.