Many states across the United States have rescinded their pandemic-related mandate requiring residents to wear face masks because the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective in combatting the virus.
But Oregon may go the complete opposite direction.
What are the details?
A top Oregon health official is considering a "permanent rule," according to the Associated Press, mandating social distancing and the use of face masks inside workplaces indefinitely.
Current regulations expire on May 4, but Michael Wood, administrator of the state's department of Occupational Safety and Health, reportedly wants to alter state regulations to extend the mandate until "revised or repealed."
The proposal only promises to repeal the permanent rule once officials no longer deem face masks necessary.
Although the rule must be adopted as a permanent rule, its purpose is to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Oregon OSHA intends to repeal the rule when it is no longer necessary to address that pandemic. Because it is not possible to assign a specific time for that decision, Oregon OSHA will consult with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority, and other stakeholders as circumstances change to determine when all or part of the rule can be appropriately repealed.
"We are not out of the woods yet," Wood said, the AP reported.
Wood claimed the proposal is "driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed," but admitted "it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the state of emergency is lifted."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) extended her COVID-related state of emergency order in late February, keeping in place some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the nation.
Wood will make a final decision about permanently extending the mask mandate by May 4.
What was the reaction?
Wood's office has been inundated with "a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal," the AP reported.
Much of the concern stems from officials refusing to provide the public with specific metrics that would trigger the "permanent rule" to be lifted, especially considering how quickly Americans are becoming vaccinated.
"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? 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," state Sen. Kim Thatcher (R) said, the AP reported.
With more than one-quarter of the American population now fully vaccinated, some leaders are bucking the narrative from pandemic leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci who say that face masks and social distancing are still necessary for even those Americans who are now immune to COVID-19.
"My view is, if you get a vaccine, the vaccines are effective, you're immune. And so act immune," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Friday.