Fri, 07 May 2021

PORTLAND, Oregon: The state of Oregon is moving in the opposite direction of much of America, as it seeks to indefinitely extend its facemask, social distancing and other Covid restrictions.

A proposal by state health officials would continue Covid restrictions until they are "no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace," said officials.

"We are not out of the woods yet," added Michael Wood, administrator of the state's department of Occupational Safety and Health.

But the public has responded with anger, as parents, teachers, business owners and employees believe the move is an example of government overreach.

Wood's agency has received 5,000 complaints about the proposed rules, as well as a petition signed by nearly 60,000 Oregon residents.

Among the complaints is that Oregon officials have not set a number for new COVID-19 cases that would end the restrictions.

"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?" asked state Sen. Kim Thatcher, as quoted by the Associated Press.

"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," she added.

A final decision from Wood is due by May 4.

Oregon has enforced some of the most stringent Covid rules in the United States.

Six states - Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas - have ended facemask requirements. While

In Texas, businesses reopened at 100 percent capacity last month.

Making matters worse, Oregon's proposal includes workplace regulations monitoring air flow, ventilation, employee notification in case of an outbreak, and sanitation protocols.

Additionally, separate regulations have been issued by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, using a state of emergency declaration, requiring masks in public - and outside when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.

More than one-third of Oregon's counties are still limited to indoor social gatherings of six people, while the maximum occupancy for indoor dining, indoor entertainment and gyms is 25 percent capacity, or 50 people, whichever is less.

Oregon's schools are just reopening, after a one year closure.

The workplace rule is "driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed," Wood said.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

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