Businesses in Oregon that choose to offer mask-less purchases to people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will likely be required to inspect each customer’s vaccination card and verify the dates of individual injections, one said on Friday. senior state health official.
That’s the protocol the Oregon Health Authority is expected to adopt when it issues written guidelines for businesses in the coming days. Businesses that don’t want the hassle will still be allowed to demand masks regardless of their vaccination status.
Public health official and epidemiologist Dr Dean Sidelinger said checking vaccinations will be critical to ensuring the safety of customers and employees. But, he acknowledged, the change in federal mask guidelines marks a “radical shift” and will likely lead to headaches for local stores.
“Companies have a choice of which system to implement,” he said, “and individuals have a choice.”
Oregon is working to issue new formal mask-wearing guidelines after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people generally do not need to wear masks or physically distance themselves. Masks have been needed in most circumstances across Oregon since July 1, and local officials are now working on the fly to develop nuanced rules covering a multitude of circumstances.
Governor Kate Brown announced Thursday that masks would not be necessary for fully vaccinated people in most “public places,” but state officials have yet to define what that means. A person is considered fully immunized if 14 days have passed since the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
Oregon officials appear to be using the unmasking option as an incentive to ramp up vaccinations statewide, while saying their plan should not violate individuals’ privacy rights under the US Act. portability and liability of health insurance.
Sidelinger said on Friday that people who decide not to wear masks in a store would voluntarily share their immunization status, otherwise they would be required to wear masks.
“It is not a violation of HIPAA or of privacy since they are voluntarily disclosing this information,” he said.
Sidelinger said he plans to have store staff at participating companies greeting customers at the entrances to ensure immunization status is checked. Businesses are already generally required to monitor social distancing and hide requirements, he said, and “we anticipate that would be a change in the way people do their jobs.”
Sidelinger did not explicitly address whether the honor system for customers would be allowed, but said it was considering a more rigorous verification process by store employees.
“Right now, I expect it would see a card with the individual’s name, the vaccines they received and the date and where they got them,” he said. “It could be a picture of the immunization card or a recording from their provider on their phone.”
Verification of vaccine status could prove contentious, however, as viral videos of confrontation over masking requirements were common during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“And that will put some in a difficult position,” Sidelinger said. “And that is why I am asking and hoping the Oregonians will continue to do what is right.”
Sidelinger said the new modeling shows coronavirus cases could decline in the coming weeks, with a potential of 420 to 590 cases per day – below the current daily average of around 650. But Oregon is in the top ten nationwide for per capita spread over the past two. weeks, and cases are not declining as quickly as officials would like.
This means that people who are not vaccinated and lie about their status to avoid wearing a mask could not only put themselves at risk, but others, if they are infected without symptoms and unintentionally spread the virus, Sidelinger said.
“I hope no one is dishonest,” he said. “People now have choices about how they want to protect themselves and their communities, and we hope they will.”
– Brad Schmidt; [email protected]; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt