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Oregon Health Officials Propose Making Mask Mandates Permanent

Oregon state health officials unveiled a new proposal in January which seeks to turn temporary mask mandates permanent.


Oregon state health officials unveiled a new proposal in January which seeks to make temporary mask mandates permanent.

The current order, passed in November by the state’s workplace safety department, which requires all employers to implement state-imposed guidelines for social distancing and mask compliance, is set to expire on May 4. Oregon health bureaucrats are now seeking to make the rules permanent.

“Although the rule must be adopted as a permanent rule, its purpose is to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” the proposal reads. “Oregon [Occupational Safety and Health] intends to repeal the rule when it is no longer necessary to address the pandemic.”

No threshold for what constitutes when the mandate is “no longer necessary” however, is offered in the proposal.

New COVID cases in Oregon meanwhile, are averaging less than half what they were when the temporary order came into effect last fall. The state saw 769 new cases with a seven-day average of 603 positive tests the day to order was announced on Nov. 6 as they began to rise going into the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Wednesday however, the state say 264 new cases with a seven-day average of 284.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen announced Wednesday all adult residents will be eligible for the vaccine by May 1, three days before the existing mask mandate is set to expire.

“In Oregon, every single adult will be eligible for a vaccine on May 1 – which does not mean they will get a vaccine on May 1, but they will be eligible,” Allen told a local paper.

The state mask mandates however, which are particularly stringent, are becoming a progressively burdensome issue for a COVID-fatigued public one year into the pandemic.

Even outdoor sports teams under state regulations are mandated to wear facial coverings where the arbitrary measure of six-feet distancing cannot be guaranteed.

On Wednesday, the Register-Guard, a local northwestern newspaper reported on several cross-country teams meeting on their own in the absence of large invitationals to keep the season alive and their students engaged. The outdoor mask requirements however, have caused students to struggle despite their happiness to compete.

“It’s tragic to watch,” coach Steve Richards told the paper. “It’s hard as a coach to send your kids out there. There’s been a lot of theorizing about the health risks between wearing a mask and not wearing one, and I can’t speak to those. I just know the looks on their faces. They’re running their guts out.”

Others believe the masks themselves have become a higher safety hazard than the comparatively low risk of viral transmission among high school teenagers outdoors.

The paper reported:

The state has mandated masks be worn during all practices and competitions for high school sports. It’s a rule many coaches and runners are unhappy with, saying it’s difficult to competitively run 5,000 meters while masks. They also worry it could be dangerous.

‘I have two kids with asthma,’ Junction City coach Shannon McAdams said. ‘Running a 5K is hard enough. Running with a mask on could be detrimental.