Skip to main content

As mask mandates end, Oregon bucks trend with permanent rule

Saturday, April 17, 2021 | Sara Cline, Associated Press/Report for America


Residents wearing masks sit in downtown Lake Oswego, Ore., on Sunday, April 11, 2021. Tens of thousands of Oregon residents are angry about a proposal to make permanent an emergency rule that requires masks and social distancing in the state's businesses and schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Opponents worry about government overreach and fear that state officials won't remove the mask requirements for businesses even after threat of the virus has receded if the emergency rule becomes permanent. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As states around the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction — and many residents are fuming about it.

A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state.

The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”

Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a “permanent” rule to keep current restrictions from expiring.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

But the idea has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying government overreach.

Wood’s agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.

Opponents also are upset government officials won’t say how low Oregon's COVID-19 case numbers must go, or how many people would have to be vaccinated, to get the requirements lifted in a state that’s already had some of the nation’s strictest safety measures.

“When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone?” said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, near the state’s capital. “Businesses have had to play ‘mask cop’ for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines.”

Wood said he is reviewing all the feedback to see if changes are needed before he makes a final decision by May 4, when the current rules lapse.

Oregon, a blue state, has been among those with the country’s most stringent COVID-19 restrictions and now stands in contrast with much of the rest of the nation as vaccines become more widely available.

At least six states — Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas — have lifted mask mandates, and some never implemented them. In Texas, businesses reopened at 100% capacity last month.

In January, Virginia became the first in the nation to enact permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules.

“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading — and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said following the announcement.

Besides mask and distancing requirements, Oregon's proposal includes more arcane workplace rules regarding air flow, ventilation, employee notification in case of an outbreak, and sanitation protocols.

It dovetails with separate actions issued by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, using a state of emergency declaration, requiring masks in public statewide — and even outside when 6 feet (1.83 meters) of distance can’t be maintained — and providing strict, county-by-county thresholds for business closures or reductions in capacity when case numbers rise above certain levels.

More than a third of Oregon’s counties are currently limited to indoor social gatherings of six people, and the maximum occupancy for indoor dining, indoor entertainment and gyms is 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. And many schools are just now reopening after a year of online learning.

The workplace rule is “driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed,” Wood said.

“But, it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the State of Emergency is lifted,” he said, referring to Brown’s executive orders.

Amid pandemic frustration and deprivation, the issue has gained a lot of attention. A petition on change.org opposing the rule gained nearly 60,000 signatures and spread on social media, drawing even more interest to the proposal. More than 5,000 public comments were sent to the agency, smashing its previous record of 1,100.

“The majority of comments were simply hostile to the entire notion of COVID-19 restrictions,” Wood said. “The vast majority of comments were in the context of, ‘You never needed to do anything.’”

Justin Spaulding, a doctor at the Cataract & Laser Institute of Southern Oregon, is among those who raised concerns about the proposal in public comments.

“I do not understand these new guidelines for business. If we put these into effect we will only continue to blunt the recent drop in business,” he wrote. “We have a large subset of patients that are unwilling (or) hostile with the current guidelines, and making them permanent will only make it worse.”

For Thatcher, the GOP state lawmaker, the most concerning part is “OSHA’s lack of clarity” on when the rules will be lifted.

Officials said they have every intent to repeal the rule, and that decision will be made based on a complex mix of factors, including case counts, vaccination rates, case severity and advice from the Oregon Health Authority.

“It will be a complicated assessment when we do it, and I would say it is impossibly complicated to do in advance,” Wood said.

Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Featured Article: What is Cost of Debt?


7 Outdoor Recreation Stocks For Growth And Dividends

If American’s liked outdoor activities before, they love them even more now. The COVID-19 pandemic has done many things, and one of them is reinvigorating American’s love of the outdoors. Data from across the industry shows a sustained uptick in revenue that has the entire complex moving higher.

The RV Industry Association, for example, reports shipments of RVs are up greater than 30% in 2020 and are expected to grow another 20% or more in 2021. If data from the two of the industry’s largest manufacturers are any indication, that forecast is very conservative.

And the gains aren’t limited to RVs. Everything that has anything to do with outdoor recreation is booming. Sales at Dicks Sporting Goods, an iconic brand for retail and the outdoors, has seen a sustained 20% increase in revenue since the 2nd quarter shutdowns. If anything, revenue in this sector is being held back by rapidly declining inventory and tight shipping conditions.

The stocks we are about to show all have something in common; the outdoors. Within the group, you will find everything from RVs to Radios and everything in between an outdoor enthusiast could need or want. Some pay dividends and some don’t, but all will deliver solid returns to investors in 2021.

View the "7 Outdoor Recreation Stocks For Growth And Dividends".


MarketBeat - Stock Market News and Research Tools logo

MarketBeat empowers individual investors to make better trading decisions by providing real-time financial data and objective market analysis. Whether you’re looking for analyst ratings, corporate buybacks, dividends, earnings, economic reports, financials, insider trades, IPOs, SEC filings or stock splits, MarketBeat has the objective information you need to analyze any stock. Learn more about MarketBeat.

MarketBeat is accredited by the Better Business Bureau

© American Consumer News, LLC dba MarketBeat® 2010-2021. All rights reserved.
326 E 8th St #105, Sioux Falls, SD 57103 | U.S. Based Support Team at [email protected] | (844) 978-6257
MarketBeat does not provide personalized financial advice and does not issue recommendations or offers to buy stock or sell any security.

Our Accessibility Statement | Terms of Service | Do Not Sell My Information

© 2021 Market data provided is at least 10-minutes delayed and hosted by Barchart Solutions. Information is provided 'as-is' and solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice, and is delayed. To see all exchange delays and terms of use please see disclaimer. Fundamental company data provided by Zacks Investment Research. As a bonus to opt-ing into our email newsletters, you will also get a free subscription to the Liberty Through Wealth e-newsletter. You can opt out at any time.