Politicians love to tout Oregon’s history as a policy leader on such diverse issues as recycling, environmental protections, voting by mail, physician-assisted suicide and drug decriminalization — including marijuana.
But when Governor Kate Brown announced a pioneering approach to a post-vaccine policy on masks and business reopening — no one followed.
The new guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority — requiring businesses, churches and other venues to allow customers to go maskless only in places where vaccination status is checked with a CDC-issued card or other documentation — were based on new guidance that face coverings weren’t needed for the fully vaccinated.
But the policy quickly proved to be an outlier on the national stage — even compared with progressive neighbors like Washington and California — with whom Oregon’s pandemic strategies have generally been in lockstep.
According to Willamette Week, 31 states no longer require anyone to wear a mask indoors, if they ever did.
Four states still require universal masking, while 14 (including Washington and California) are asking businesses and residents to use the honor system — which was also the recommended course of the Biden Administration.
Only Oregon has attempted to introduce what has been described as a “vaccine passport” — though, to be fair, the state’s policy does not require vaccine verification for entry — only for the privilege of doing so without masking up.
It has not only been other state and federal leaders that have balked at Oregon’s approach; few business owners appear interested in putting themselves or their employees in the contentious and — potentially — legally problematic position of asking their patrons to disclose private health information.
Most businesses in Canby have continued to require masks indoors; others have quietly adopted an honor system similar to those announced by nationwide retailers like Costco and Walmart.
Even venues that have opted to create seating sections exclusively for vaccinated individuals — like the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers — are still requiring all patrons to wear masks.
And the one high-profile business that did try to follow the new policy, the Enchanted Forest theme park — which announced it would allow customers to go unmasked if they showed proof of vaccination — quickly backtracked after being inundated with irate comments and threats of violence.
On Wednesday, House Republicans led by Canby’s representative, Christine Drazan, sent a letter to Brown urging her to rescind the “passport” policy.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon committed to aligning regulations with Washington and California,” GOP lawmakers said. “We should not become an outlier now. We are reaching the end of the pandemic and should be lifting mandates, not adding new ones.
“We request that you end this vaccine passport/verification system immediately. It is time to place our trust in Oregonians again. They have earned it.”
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