PORTLAND, Oregon: The state of Oregon is moving in the opposite direction of much of America as it tries to extend its facial mask, social distancing, and other coveted restrictions indefinitely.
A proposal by state health officials would continue with Covid restrictions until “they are no longer needed to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace,” officials said.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” added Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s occupational safety and health department.
But the public has responded angrily, as parents, teachers, business owners and employees believe the measure is an example of government extension.
Wood’s agency has received 5,000 complaints about the proposed rules, as well as a petition signed by about 60,000 Oregon residents.
Among the complaints is that Oregon officials have not set a number for the new COVID-19 cases that end the restrictions.
“When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies are these mandates based on, especially now that the vaccine is just days away from being available to everyone?” asked State Sen. Kim Thatcher, the Associated Press was quoted as saying.
“Companies have had to play ‘mask blow’ for most of a year. They deserve certainty about when they will no longer be threatened with fines,” he added.
Wood will have to make a final decision on May 4th.
Oregon has enforced some of the strictest Covid rules in the United States.
Six states (Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas) have completed facial mask requirements. While
In Texas, companies reopened 100% of capacity last month.
To make matters worse, Oregon’s proposal includes workplace regulations that control airflow, ventilation, employee notification in the event of an outbreak, and sanitation protocols.
In addition, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has issued separate regulations, through a state of emergency statement, requiring masks in public and outside when a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained.
More than a third of Oregon counties are still limited to indoor social gatherings of six people, while the maximum occupancy for indoor dinners, indoor entertainment and gyms is 25%, or 50 people, whichever is lower.
Oregon schools have just reopened, after a year of closure.
The workplace rule “is driven by the pandemic and will be repealed,” Wood said.
“But it may not have to go away exactly at the very moment the state of emergency rises,” he said, referring to Brown’s executive orders.