Update on Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Masking Rules

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP February 22, 2022

​The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recently published permanent rules requiring COVID-19 vaccination and masking for employees in health care settings and K-12 schools, as well as a permanent rule on indoor masking that applies statewide. But while the rules are "permanent," they are not meant to last forever.

"Oregon will remove general mask requirements for indoor public places no later than March 31," according to state health officials. The rule replaced a temporary standard that expired Feb. 8.

State leaders also expect to lift masking requirements for schools by the end of March.

We've gathered articles on masking rules from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Directives for Health Care and School Employees

The permanent rules on vaccination and masking for health care and K-12 workers replace temporary rules that had expired. The rules will "remain in effect unless the State Public Health Director or State Public Health Officer issues an order stating that the requirements ... are no longer necessary to control COVID-19," according to state leaders. Oregon officials will consider the following factors when determining whether to loosen or lift the orders:

  • The degree of COVID-19 transmission.
  • The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths.
  • Disparate impacts of COVID-19-related health issues for communities of color and tribal communities.
  • Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The proportion of the population partially or fully vaccinated.

"Health care and K-12 employers may want to revisit their COVID-19 policies and workplace practices to consider whether they are complying," said Paul Cirner, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Portland, Ore.

(Ogletree Deakins)

Indoor Mask Mandate

On Feb. 7, OHA issued a permanent rule on indoor masking, which will remain in effect until it is revised or rescinded by the state's public health director or health officer. "Although the rule repeatedly references COVID-19, it is unclear if the indoor mask mandate is limited to COVID-19 or if it may be invoked in the future if the public health director or health officer deems it necessary," noted Heather Van Meter, an attorney with Bullard Law in Portland, Ore.

Under the directive, people must wear masks in public indoor spaces unless they are:

  • Younger than age 5 or not yet in kindergarten (although everyone age 2 and older must wear a mask on public transportation).
  • Sleeping.
  • Actively eating or drinking.
  • Engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask infeasible (such as swimming).
  • In a private individual workspace.
  • Briefly removing the mask to confirm their identity.
  • Practicing or playing a competitive sport.
  • Officiating a competitive sport if the role requires a high level of physical exertion.
  • Performing music or theater or delivering a speech to an audience.

Businesses must post signs at entrances and enforce the mask mandate for all employees, visitors and customers. Violations may result in fines of up to $500 per person per day.

(Bullard Law)

Oregon Drops Vaccine-or-Testing Rule

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that halted the federal government's vaccine-or-testing rule for large private employers, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA) announced that the state was dropping plans to adopt a similar policy. "Oregon OSHA maintains a COVID-19 rule that requires employers to implement protections for workers. Those protections include infection control planning, exposure risk assessments, sanitation and notification," the state agency said.  


Some States Relax Pandemic-Related Masking Rules

Many states—including California, Illinois and New York—are easing their mask requirements as COVID-19 cases decline after the winter spike caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The CDC has not relaxed its guidelines, but Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency will be updating its COVID-19-related metrics soon. "We are assessing the most important factors based on where we are in the pandemic, and we'll soon put guidance in place that is relevant and encourages prevention measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals," she explained at a White House press briefing on Feb. 16.

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource hub page on COVID-19 and the coronavirus



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