State issues guidance on reopening economy without masks, social distancing

Businesses, employers and others will soon have the option to lift mandates for wearing a mask and social distancing, however, it will require "verifying vaccination status" of individuals in order to do so. New guidance was released by the Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday.

ONTARIO

After nearly a week of business owners lashing out about the possibility of having to check people’s COVID-19 vaccination status, the Oregon Health Authority released new guidance on Tuesday about what will be required in order to forego masks and social distancing.

According to the guidance, qualifying businesses, employers and faith-based institutions can continue to enforce wearing of masks and social distancing. However, those who are ready to lift those precautions will be required to do three things.

First, a policy must be in place for checking for proof of vaccination status. Second, proof of vaccination status must be requested from each individual. And lastly, proof must be reviewed prior to a person’s entry or admission, according to the guidance.

What does proof of COVID-19 vaccine look like? It could be the physical vaccine record card or a digital picture of one. According to the guidance, it is documentation provided by a tribal, federal, state or local government or health-care provider. It should include a person’s name, date of birth, type of vaccine given, name and location of health-care provider where the vaccine was administered.

It is noteworthy that private residences are listed as places which do not qualify for relaxed guidance. Other places the new rule does not apply to include health-care settings; detention centers, jails and correctional facilities; shelters and transitional housing; K-12 schools; planes, trains and public transportation traveling into, within or outside the U.S.; transportation hubs, such as airports and bus stations; and other settings where the owner or operator chooses to continue enforcing the state’s social distancing mandates and guidance for masks, face coverings and face shields.

GOP pushback

Republican leaders in the House and Senate are speaking out against vaccine passports. Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, called it “an invasion of privacy,” “dictatorial control,” and called for Gov. Kate Brown to “immediately rescind this misguided edict and trust Oregonians.”

“Vaccine passports are completely contrary to Oregonian’ sense of privacy, Girond said in a news release on Tuesday afternoon.

Girod pointed out that the Biden Administration is pursuing a strategy that ditches plans for a federal vaccine passport, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying on April 6 that “Americans’ privacy and rights should be protected.”

Furthermore, Girod points out that Oregon is breaking ground with this mandate.

“To date, Oregon is one of the first, if not the first, to mandate that its residents present credentials to engage in everyday activities without a mask,” said Girod.

Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said he “completely agrees with the Senate GOP leader.

“We need to open up Oregon more, and the road to a vaccine passport is certainly the wrong way to go about it,” he said in a phone message to the newspaper on Wednesday night.

House GOP Leader Christine Drazan also said that requiring Oregonians to verify vaccine status “also creates additional liability concerns for the state and businesses, as business owners are turned into state actors.”

The only other option, to require all customers to wear masks regardless of their status, is “contrary to the Centers for Disease Control guidance.”

Drazan also cited the White House and CDC stating that the federal government “will never support a vaccine verification system, nor have they mandated that businesses do so.”

Oregon should not be at odds with recommendation from the federal government, she stated, adding that restrictions should be easing.

“The choice should be returned to people and businesses so they can follow the latest guidance from the CDC without unwarranted government mandates,” Drazan said.

Some worry the mandates will not end.

“At every turn, Gov. Brown has mistrusted Oregonians to protect themselves and each other,” stated Girod. “If she can’t give Oregonians their freedom back now, when will she?”

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