State Says Most Businesses Are Enforcing Covid Guidelines

One month after announcing that state inspectors would be conducting weekend spot checks in bars, restaurants, breweries, tasting rooms and other establishments to enforce state face covering and physical distancing requirements, Governor Kate Brown reported this week that the vast majority of businesses have been in compliance.

“We still have a long road ahead of us,” the governor said. “Infections continue to rise. But I’d like to thank Oregonians, business owners, and local officials for stepping up to the plate to help make sure we are all wearing face coverings, keeping our physical distance, and working together to keep our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and fellow Oregonians safe.”

Since July 4th, Oregon Liquor Control Commission inspectors have spot-checked more than 3,600 licensed establishments, and over 93% have been found to be in compliance with physical distancing and face covering requirements.

Of those found not to be in compliance, the vast majority took steps to implement corrective measures when given instructions by OLCC about how to achieve compliance, the state said. Only about 1% of the spot-checked business were referred to Oregon OSHA for further investigation.

Likewise, Oregon OSHA has fielded over 3,400 coronavirus-related complaints from the public and others about businesses and workplaces since the July 4th holiday and found only a small number of businesses to be in violation of Covid-19 health and safety requirements.

Since the pandemic reached Oregon in March, the state OSHA has conducted over 5,000 spot checks of businesses, initiated more than 60 inspections based on COVID-19 related complaints and have had to issue only 14 citations and five “Red Warning Notices,” which apply to businesses that appear to be in willful violation of state health and safety guidance or who refuse to take corrective measures.

Such businesses are closed until the hazardous condition is remedied. Violation of a Red Warning Notice results in stiff penalties.

OLCC inspectors have also reported some business owners are willfully choosing not to follow health and safety requirements, and have suspended liquor licenses for failing to follow face covering and physical distancing requirements.

This week, OLCC suspended the liquor license of the Jammin Salmon, a bar and restaurant near Rogue River, for failing to require patrons to “keep their distance.” According to The Oregonian, the bar hosted several hundred for a large event Saturday, with crowds spilling out of the establishment and very few wearing face masks.

“Let me be clear,” Brown said, “businesses that do not follow the health and safety guidance established by the Oregon Health Authority are putting their employees, their customers, and their communities at risk, risking community-wide closures for other businesses as well if a COVID-19 outbreak starts to spread out of control.”

According to OLCC reports, state inspectors have conducted 1,477 site visits at Portland metro area establishments (which includes Clackamas County) since July 3, resulting in 83 verbal instructions on face covering or social distancing guidelines, four referrals to Oregon OSHA for further investigation and four non-Covid-related OLCC violations.

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