House GOP Leader on Latest Mask Guidelines: ‘It’s Time to Return to Normal’

Canby’s state representative — and ranking Republican in the Oregon House — is pushing back on what she termed the governor’s latest “misguided” approach to managing mask and social distancing guidelines amid the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that fully vaccinated people could safely go unmasked in virtually any situation — and Oregon Governor Kate Brown soon announced the state would follow the same guidelines — it seemed to signal to many that the era of the face covering in America was coming to a close.

Then new guidance came late Tuesday from the Oregon Health Authority, saying the new standards would apply only in businesses, venues and other public settings that had systems in place to check and verify the vaccination status of those entering — presumably, with the Covid-19 vaccine card that is issued with the jabs.

In her letter to Brown dated Wednesday, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said these new guidelines place undue burdens on brick-and-mortar businesses already struggling to coax customers (and, in some cases, employees) back to in-person activities.

“To comply with OHA guidance, businesses will need to train employees to verify personal health records for different vaccines and check the dates those vaccines were administered,” Drazan wrote.

“Businesses will incur fines from Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if their employees get it wrong. Vaccine cards are designed as a personal health record, not a credential.”

The second-term Republican lawmaker said the practice could open business owners up to potential litigation, essentially requiring them and their employees to act on behalf of the state without appropriate training or liability protection.

“The only other option for businesses is to require all customers wear masks regardless of their vaccination status, which is contrary to the CDC guidance,” she said.

Drazan said Oregon’s policy is out of step not only with the CDC, but also the Biden Administration — which has stated the federal government will never support a nationwide vaccine verification system.

“Rather than follow the recommendations of President Biden and the CDC, Oregon is mandating that businesses across the state choose between maintaining an unnecessary mask mandate or implementing a flawed vaccine passport system,” Drazan said. “Oregon should not be at odds with the CDC and White House’s recommendations.”

Drazan predicted this approach will “create conflict between employees and customers, and between businesses and the communities they serve” — with front-line workers bearing the brunt of these confrontations.

“We should not be placing further burdens on workers,” she concluded. “Vaccines are prevalent and accessible. We should be easing restrictions.

“The choice should be returned to people and businesses so they can follow the latest guidance from the CDC without unwarranted government mandates. It’s time to return to normal.”

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