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Gov. Brown lifts many mask requirements for fully vaccinated Oregonians

Fully vaccinated Oregonians can ditch their face masks in most public settings, Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday, bringing the state in line with new federal guidance on the ubiquitous mainstays of pandemic life.

Beginning Thursday, Oregonians who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in public settings with a few exceptions. Those include: hospitals, health-care clinics, jails and prisons, long-term care facilities and when riding on public transportation.

The full scope of the changes is not immediately known, and spokespersons for the Oregon Health Authority and Brown did not immediately respond to written questions.

But it appears Brown’s announcement does not yet apply to businesses and employers although it may soon, so long as they verify the vaccination status of workers. Brown said the Oregon Health Authority will provide updated guidance in the days ahead. The changes don’t apply to schools, either, the governor said.

Brown, in perhaps her most explicit effort to improve vaccination rates yet, told unvaccinated Oregonians who want to stop wearing masks they should consider getting inoculated.

“Oregonians now have a choice of how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19: either get vaccinated, or continue wearing a mask and following physical distancing requirements,” she said in a video statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday abruptly revised its policy on mask-wearing, triggering states around the country to fall in line. Oregon first implemented mask requirements for some counties 11 months ago, and statewide July 1, leaving state officials scrambling to explain such sweeping changes hours after they were announced.

The CDC, for example, considers someone fully vaccinated 14 days after the person receives a first dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine or a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. It’s unclear, but likely, Oregon would also use that standard.

State officials did not immediately provide a definition for “public space,” however, such as whether that would apply to a city hall, county courthouse or even a large sports venue owned by the government, such as Providence Park.

State officials also didn’t immediately clarify if the changes would apply to customers at grocery stores or movie theaters, nor how the changes would affect workers or when state rules for businesses would be revised.

Brown, in her statement, said businesses would be allowed to lift mask and physical distancing requirements “after verifying vaccination status.” But it’s unclear how that would happen, and if it would apply only to workers or also customers.

“Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now, rather than worrying about verifying vaccination status,” Brown said, “and that’s fine.”

Here is Brown’s full statement:

“Hello, Governor Kate Brown here.

Today the CDC issued new guidance for lifting mask and social distancing requirements for fully-vaccinated individuals. It is yet another sign that, if we all continue to do our part, the pandemic is coming closer to an end.

Starting today, Oregon will be following this guidance, which only applies to fully-vaccinated individuals. That means Oregonians who are fully-vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.

The CDC has outlined a few exceptions, such as public transportation, hospitals and health care clinics, correctional facilities, and long-term care facilities. Oregon will continue to require individuals to remain masked and distanced in these circumstances. Immuno-compromised people should continue to follow the recommendations of their health care provider when it comes to personal protective measures. Nothing is changing for schools this school year, and I expect education staff and students to continue to wear masks and physically distance, as outlined in our Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.

In the coming days, the Oregon Health Authority will be providing updated guidance for businesses, employers, and others to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status. Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now, rather than worrying about verifying vaccination status, and that’s fine.

Oregonians now have a choice of how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19: either get vaccinated, or continue wearing a mask and following physical distancing requirements.

The new CDC guidance makes clear that vaccines are the best tool to protect yourself, and everyone around you. Vaccines are also the fastest way to get back to doing the things we all love, and to returning to a sense of normalcy.

If you’re already vaccinated, thank you. I encourage you to help a friend or loved one make their appointment. If you have questions about vaccines, that’s totally normal. Call your health care provider to get your questions answered, or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for great resources.

The new CDC guidance makes clear that vaccines are the best tool to protect yourself, and everyone around you. Vaccines are also the fastest way to get back to doing the things we all love, and to returning to a sense of normalcy.

If you’re already vaccinated, thank you. I encourage you to help a friend or loved one make their appointment. If you have questions about vaccines, that’s totally normal. Call your health care provider to get your questions answered, or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for great resources.

Brad Schmidt; bschmidt@oregonian.com; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt