A Permanent Mask Mandate? One State Is Considering It

Posted: Apr 19, 2021 6:10 AM
A Permanent Mask Mandate? One State Is Considering It

Source: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

As more states fully open up their economies and ditch mask mandates and social distancing guidelines, one is going in the opposite direction. 

A top health official in Oregon is considering requiring masks and social distancing in businesses indefinitely.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Michael Wood, administrator for the Oregon Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

The proposal would keep the rules until they’re “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.” 

Making the rule permanent is simply a way to tackle a technicality in the state law that requires a 'permanent' rule to keep current restrictions from expiring, he said, as he insisted the rule will be 'repealed' as soon as it is safe to do so.   

The workplace rule is 'driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed,' Wood said.

'But, it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the State of Emergency is lifted,' he said.  

Wood did not provide a timeframe for when it would be repealed but said the decision will be made based on a complex mix of factors, including case counts, vaccination rates, case severity and advice from the Oregon Health Authority.

'It will be a complicated assessment when we do it, and I would say it is impossibly complicated to do in advance,' Wood said.   (Daily Mail)

Turns out even in Oregon that’s a hugely unpopular idea.

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 also are upset government officials won’t say how low Oregon’s COVID-19 case numbers must go, or how many people would have to be vaccinated, to get the requirements lifted in a state that’s already had some of the nation’s strictest safety measures. […]

Wood said he is reviewing all the feedback to see if changes are needed before he makes a final decision by May 4, when the current rules lapse. (AP)

“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 Republican state Sen. Kim Thatcher, according to the AP. “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.”