As many states begin to loosen mask mandates following a swell of COVID-19 vaccinations, several are grappling with how to enforce allowing only vaccinated people to go mask-free in public places. In the state of Oregon, the government is requiring business proprietors, workplace managers, and even leaders in houses of worship to demand documentation of vaccination for anyone going maskless within their walls.
According to The New York Times, the Oregon Health Authority issued a new guidance earlier this week stating that businesses would be required to continue to enforce mask requirements unless they had established a policy to confirm proof of vaccination using a card or photo of one before allowing individuals to enter their premises without a mask.
Democratic Governor Kate Brown said the previous week that fully vaccinated Oregonians could now go mask-free except in places like schools, public transportation, and medical facilities.
Gov. Brown added that businesses, churches, and others would have “the option” of dropping masking requirements only on the condition of developing a system of proof of vaccination: “Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now rather than worrying about vaccination status, and that’s fine.”
Following the CDC’s recent announcement that infection rates had dropped and vaccination rates had risen to the point that most vaccinated people can go mask-free in most situations, several states began to lift their mask mandates with varying degrees of ensuring proof of vaccination.
Oregon’s statewide mandate came about over concerns that the “honor system” would be abused by people wishing to ditch the mask without having received the rapidly-released vaccine.
On the other hand, business groups in the state are concerned that, not unlike the previous policies regarding mask-wearing enforcement, requiring store employees, church volunteers, and others to demand proof of vaccination would be “potentially untenable.”
“We have serious concerns about the practicality of requiring business owners and workers to be the enforcer,” said Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for Oregon Business and Industry, according to the Times. “We are hearing from retailers and small businesses who are concerned about putting their frontline workers in a potentially untenable position when dealing with customers.”
If businesses, churches, and others don’t want to be in that situation, however, their only other option is to stick to the old mask mandate.
“Businesses that do not want to implement vaccine verification can keep current health and safety measures in place, which includes masks and physical distancing for all individuals,” said Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Gov. Brown. When asked if businesses would be punished for failing to check the vaccination status of its maskless patrons, Boyle said that “in the past year state agencies have issued fines for businesses that are out of compliance with health and safety guidance.”
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