Oregon Workplace Mask and Vaccines Updates
Disclaimer: The following blog post was written on August 9th, 2021 and its contents will be updated as Oregon state health guidance on face masks and vaccines change. Last updated on August 26th, 2021.
We know it’s been a tough year working through a slew of mandates and lockdowns, so it’s unfortunate we can’t say that we’re in a post-pandemic time just yet. As we’re seeing new variants emerge and the future remaining uncertain, we understand that it may be hard to stay optimistic and on top of everything. While we can’t predict the future, we can instill a sense of preparedness and keep you as close to the facts as possible.
Mask Requirements & Mandates
To say that the mask situation can change quickly from “masks are strongly recommended” to “masks are mandated,” is an understatement. To be frank, Oregon guidance on face masks quite literally changed as we were writing this blog post. For example, Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah County, just recently announced it would be implementing another mask mandate.
Due to the announcement of the reinstatement of a statewide Oregon mask mandate (effective August 13th, 2021), face masks will be required in all indoor spaces regardless of your vaccination status. Effective August 27th, 2021, masks are also required in outdoor public spaces (regardless of vaccination status), including large outdoor events, where physical distancing isn’t possible. This is a result of a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly-contagious delta variant. It’s important that business owners stay close to the news and ensure that they’re being compliant with what’s required in terms of face masks. Therefore, we strongly urge you to have a workplace mask policy on-hand (if you didn’t have one before) and be ready to make any necessary changes to your company activities to stay compliant with the CDC and OHA guidance.
Common sense exemptions do apply for certain activities that would be impractical or make it impossible to wear a mask. (For example: eating and drinking; swimming; organized sports; performances involving singing or speaking in public.) In these cases, OHA strongly recommends that participants be fully vaccinated if they are eligible to do so.
Oregon OSHA will have a role in the enforcement of the mask mandate for employers and employees, but with an education-first approach. As businesses work to implement mask protocols and policies (including the necessary signage), Oregon OSHA will work with employers who show that they’re making a reasonable effort to comply with the mask mandate and won’t conduct inspections or issue fines immediately.
We’d also like to remind everyone to be respectful and not single out those who choose to continue wear masks even if they aren’t required/mandated. Everyone has different comfort levels and mask-wearing preferences, so it’s important that we are understanding of those who continue to wear them beyond requirements or mandates.
The Latest with COVID-19 Vaccines
Another hot topic is vaccine requirements in the workplace. We’ve seen quite a few businesses implementing vaccination requirements for their employees. This has been especially prevalent in the Food and Beverage industry, where employees share many touchpoints with high volumes of customers. Whether or not you decide to require your employees to be vaccinated, is up to the discretion of the employer. An exception to this is that, beginning September 30th, Oregon healthcare workers will be required to have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or face weekly tests. Oregon Governor Kate Brown is also considering adding COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for state employees.
We advise those businesses that don’t fall into these categories of healthcare or the public sector, to decide what is best for their situation and employees. Be sure that you’re acting with compassion and empathy regardless of if you decide to require vaccinations.
Things can change quickly, so we’re here to help you navigate these turbulent times and keep you up to date. If you’d like help with crafting a mask and/or vaccine requirement policy or are unsure on how to ask for proof of vaccination, reach out to us and we’d be happy to be of help!