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Oregon health officials release updated mask guidance

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Officials from the Oregon Health Authority released updated mask guidelines Tuesday, saying that businesses and churches can choose to no longer require masks and distancing for fully vaccinated people, but those places must have visitors show proof of vaccination.

In addition, mask requirements are no longer applied to anyone who is outdoors, although health officials recommend that people continue to wear a mask in crowded areas and in large gatherings.

“(Last) week’s announcement from the CDC emphasizes the point that safe and effective vaccines are the very best way to protect people from getting and spreading COVID," said Patrick Allen, the director of the health authority. "That’s why it’s safer for life to look more like normal for people who are fully vaccinated. And why people who haven’t had a chance to get vaccinated should do so as soon as they can.”

Fully vaccinated people in Oregon are no longer required to wear a face mask or physically distance whether indoors or outdoors, with some exceptions, two weeks after their final COVID-19 vaccination dose.

However, health officials say that fully vaccinated people are still required to wear a mask while on public transportation and in schools, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, correctional facilities and long-term care facilities.

In addition, businesses, employers and faith institutions can choose to no longer require masks and physical distancing for fully vaccinated people. But they must require proof that the individual is fully vaccinated and implement a “policy for checking the vaccination status of customers and employees.”

The new guidance comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could stop wearing masks and stop physical distancing in most public spaces.

Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown pointed to the CDC announcement as “another sign that as more people become fully vaccinated, the closer we are to ending this pandemic.”

Oregonians have been required to wear masks — inside public spaces such as grocery stores, shops, gyms and restaurants and outside where people cannot remain six feet apart from others — since last summer.

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Cline is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local news