The Oregon Health Authority has a long list of exceptions for its mask requirements, especially for the fully vaccinated, ranging from “most outdoor settings” to being in “an uncrowded private or public space.”
It also includes exceptions to the exceptions, such as: “These exceptions to the mask, face covering, or face shield requirement ARE NOT applicable to workplaces.”
Confused? If so, you’re definitely not the only one.
The main takeaway from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s surprise announcement last week is that the fully vaccinated can now begin getting back to normal activities without face coverings, in many indoor environments as well as most outdoor ones.
There is a big caveat, however. Private businesses in Oregon — meaning any non-governmental organization — can make their own mask rules stricter than the CDC guidelines even for outdoor settings. For now, some of them (such as Grand Central Bakery, to name just one) are continuing to remain strict, while the state works to update its own guidance. As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said last Thursday: “Some businesses may prefer simply operating under the current guidance for now” — meaning the guidelines the CDC had just said were no longer necessary.
Many doctors appear to agree with that play-it-safe approach, seeing as there are still millions of unvaccinated people in the U.S. who can still spread the disease, and they might be more likely to go without a mask if they see vaccinated people unmasked.
“I strongly recommend to others that when at an indoor place where both vaccinated and unvaccinated people mix, such as grocery stores, that they wear a mask too,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, a public-health scholar at Atlanta’s Emory University, tweeted on Saturday.
The Oregon Health Authority, for its part, is embracing the CDC’s new guidelines allowing people to go without masks, but at the same time it’s encouraging people to continue to think of the broader community implications, insisting that masks generally remain a good idea even in places they’re no longer required.
“The vaccine will keep you from getting sick, but it still may be possible to spread COVID to others,” the health agency’s COVID-19 FAQ page still states. “Vaccination gives us hope that the pandemic will end, but in the meantime, we need to continue safety measures to keep the virus from spreading: Wear a mask, physically distance from others, wash your hands, avoid gatherings and stay home when you’re sick.”
— Douglas Perry