Oregon Republicans Fight Permanent Mask Mandate

Canby’s Representative Christine Drazan and Stayton’s Senator Fred Girod, the minority leaders in the Oregon House and Senate, respectively, are pushing back on the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposal to make permanent the state’s coronavirus guidelines for workplaces, including social distancing and wearing masks.

Oregon OSHA officials have repeatedly said they do not want or intend to make the mask mandate truly permanent. Rather, a quirk of Oregon law forces the agency to either let the emergency order expire after 180 days — May 4, 2021 — or make it permanent.

Officials say the “permanent” mandate would then be repealed once the pandemic has passed and masks are no longer necessary.

Drazan and Girod’s letter is largely procedural, requesting a committee review to determine OSHA’s proposal is in compliance with existing laws.

“There has obviously been a great deal of additional information and updated guidance issued since the rules were first proposed in January 2021,” they said. “We request this new information be considered as part of the review process to determine if the proposed rule is consistent with its authorizing statute.”

But Representative Bill Post, R-Keizer, who shared the letter on social media, suggested it was part of a larger effort by him and other Republicans in the Legislature to “stop the OSHA rules.”

“Thank you to Rep. Drazan and Sen. Fred Girod for their continued work that NEVER gets reported by the media,” Post said on his political Facebook page.

The proposed permanent rules do appear to be deeply unpopular among many in the general public, with Oregon OSHA reportedly receiving a record-smashing 5,000 comments from the public about this proposal — most of them negative — and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.

“The majority of comments were simply hostile to the entire notion of Covid-19 restrictions,” Michael Wood, the administrator of Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, said. “The vast majority of comments were in the context of, ‘You never needed to do anything.'”

Oregon OSHA plans to make an announcement about the mask mandate before the emergency regulations expire on Tuesday.

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