(The Post Millennial) – Oregon officials are reportedly considering making the state’s strict mask mandates in workplaces permanent even as other states like Florida and Texas have lifted theirs amid the rollout of the COVID vaccine.
The move is in contrast to Republican states, at least six of which lifted their mask restrictions in recent months. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced recently that his state would be “open 100 percent.”
The Daily Mail reports that Michael Wood, the administrator of the state’s department of Occupational Safety and Health, said that the mask mandate and social distancing rule currently enforced towards businesses in Oregon may be extended indefinitely.
The proposal would be to keep these restrictions in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace,” at which point they could be repealed.
Last November, Oregon adopted an emergency rule allowing the state’s health department to impose mask requirements and social distancing across workplaces. The current emergency orders are set to expire on May 4 and cannot be extended beyond 180 days.
However, Wood intends to make the rule permanent, so the state will not have to abide by the 180-day limit. He insists that the rule will be repealed in due course, claiming that the rule is “driven by the pandemic.”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.”
The decision will be made on a complex mix of factors, including case counts, vaccination rates, case severity, and advice from the Oregon Health Authority, the Daily Mail reports.
The workplace mask mandate regulation exists in addition to other workplace rules regarding indoor ventilation, employee notification in case of outbreak, and more.
The move to impose permanent restrictions on Oregon’s businesses is separate to actions issued by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown who used an emergency declaration to impose a statewide mask requirement, which even applies outdoors when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. The state is divided into county-by-county thresholds for business closures or capacity reductions when case numbers rise above certain levels.