When Mask’s duty ends, Oregon goes against the trend with permanent rules

Portland, Oregon (AP) —Oregon is ready to move in the opposite direction as states across the country lift COVID-19 restrictions — and many residents are yelling at it.

The highest health authorities are considering extending the rules requiring masks and social distance indefinitely at all companies in the state.

This proposal maintains the rules until “you no longer have to deal with the effects of pandemics in the workplace.”

Michael Wood, director of the state’s occupational health and safety department, said the move to address state law expertise that requires “permanent” rules to ensure that current restrictions do not expire. Said it was necessary.

“We haven’t left the forest yet,” he said.

But this idea has sparked a flood of angry reactions screaming overkill for the government, from parents to teachers, business owners and employees.

Wood’s agency received a record number of public comments, most of which were critical, with nearly 60,000 residents signing a petition against the proposal.

Opponents also lifted the requirement that government officials need to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon, or have already implemented some of the strictest security measures in the United States. I won’t say how many people need to be vaccinated to do so.

“When will masks be obsolete? What scientific research do these obligations rely on, especially now that it takes days for vaccines to be available to everyone?” Near the state capital Said Senator Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Kaiser. “Companies now had to play” Mask Cops “for most of the year. They deserve some certainty as to when they will not be exposed to the threat of fines. “

Wood said he is considering all feedback to see if changes are needed before making a final decision by May 4, when the current rules expire.

The blue state of Oregon is one of the nation’s most stringent states with COVID-19 restrictions and is now in contrast to many other countries as vaccines become more widely available.

At least six states, Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas, have lifted their mask obligations and some have not. In Texas, the company reopened at 100% capacity last month.

In January, Virginia became the first company in the country to permanently enact COVID-19 workplace health and safety regulations.

“The end of this pandemic is finally visible, but the virus is still widespread, and it’s not time to give up preventative measures,” Democratic Governor Ralph Norsam said following the announcement.

In addition to mask and distance requirements, Oregon’s proposals include more esoteric workplace rules regarding airflow, ventilation, notification of employees in the event of an outbreak, and hygiene protocols.

It is issued by Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who uses a state of emergency to request masks throughout the state and outdoors even if he cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet (1.83 meters) and provides a strict county. Consistent with individual actions. County threshold for business closures or capacity reductions when the number of cases exceeds a certain level.

More than one-third of Oregon’s counties are currently limited to an indoor social gathering of six, with a maximum capacity of 25% or 50 of indoor dining, indoor entertainment, and gyms. I’m the one. And many schools are reopening right now after a year of online learning.

Workplace rules are “promoted by pandemics and will be abolished,” Wood said.

“But as soon as the state of emergency is lifted, it may not have to go away,” he said, referring to Brown’s executive order.

In the midst of pandemic frustration and deprivation, this issue has received a lot of attention. A change.org petition against this rule won nearly 60,000 signatures and became widespread on social media, drawing more attention to the proposal. Over 5,000 public comments have been sent to the agency, breaking the record of 1,100.

“Most of the comments were simply hostile to the overall concept of COVID-19 restrictions,” Wood said. “Most of the comments were in the context of” you didn’t have to do anything. ” “

Justin Spaulding, a physician at the Institute for Cataracts and Lasers in Southern Oregon, is one of those who expressed concern about the proposal in public comments.

“I don’t understand these new business guidelines. Implementing them only slows down the recent business downturn,” he writes. “There are a large number of patients who are against (or) hostile to current guidelines, and making them permanent only exacerbates it.”

For Thatcher, a Republican state legislature, the biggest concern is the “lack of OSHA clarity” about when the rules will be lifted.

Authorities have every intention to abolish the rule, and the decision will be based on a combination of complex factors such as number of cases, vaccination rate, severity of cases, and advice from the Oregon Department of Health. Stated.

“When we do that, it’s going to be a complicated assessment, and I think it’s impossible to do in advance,” Wood said.

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Klein is a corps member of the Associated Press / American State Capitol News Initiative Report Report. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.