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

Oregonians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces, whether inside or outside. The announcement came Thursday by Gov. Kate Brown, who said the move was in line with the Centers for Disease Controls new guidance issued earlier that day.

“It is yet another sign that, if we all continue to do our part, the pandemic is coming closer to an end,” said Brown in a video statement.

The CDC says exceptions include public transportation, hospitals, health-care clinics, correctional facilities and long-term care facilities. Per that guidance, Oregon will continue to require masks and social distancing in those circumstances, according to Brown.

In Oregon, schools will also be included in the exceptions.

“Nothing is changing for schools this school year, and I expect education staff and students to continue to wear masks and physically distance, as outlined in our Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance,” said Brown.

While Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced these requirements in the workplace would be indefinite, Brown said that the state will update the guidance soon, making it optional for businesses on how to proceed.

Businesses, employers and others will have the option to lift the social distancing and mask requirements if they choose to verify a person’s vaccination status.

“Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now, rather than worrying about verifying vaccination status, and that’s fine,” said Brown.

“Oregonians now have a choice of how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” she said.

That is either through vaccination, she said, or wearing a mask and following social distancing.

Brown thanked those who had taken the vaccine and encouraged them to help others get vaccinated.

“The new CDC guidance makes clear than vaccines are the best tool to protect yourself and everyone around you,” Brown said.

Also on Thursday, health-care providers in Oregon and Idaho in line with state health authorities say that youth ages 12-15 can begin getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s are providing those.

Saint Alphonsus said that anyone age 12 and older can receive the two-dose vaccines with a parent or guardian’s consent. Appointments in Fruitland, Caldwell or Meridian can be scheduled online at www.saintalphonsus.org/getvaccinated. Medical centers in Baker City and Ontario are currently only offering the two-dose Moderna.

St. Luke’s is offering two-dose Pfizer vaccines for children age 12 and up at specific locations in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, McCall and Twin Falls.

Locally, the two facilities as well as many other health-care providers are offering the vaccine.

The Malheur County Health Department has also been hosting clinics every Thursday, which continue in May from 9 a.m. to noon at Four Rivers Cultural Center, except for May 27, when the clinic stretches out until 7 p.m. that day.

Saying that vaccines were the fastest way to “get back to doing the things we all love, and to returning to a sense of normalcy,” Brown urged Oregonians to keep safety front and center.

“We are one step closer to putting this pandemic behind us,” she said.

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