Oregon is set to enforce a permanent mask mandate for residents


Dr. Paul Cieslak of the Oregon Health Authority said that the 'permanent' mandate is indefinite as it can be repealed anytime by the state

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Dr. Paul Cieslak of the Oregon Health Authority said that the ‘permanent’ mandate is indefinite as it can be repealed anytime by the state

Oregon sparked panic when its health authority announced it was planning to make its mask mandate ‘permanent’. 

The state’s Health Authority’s Rules Advisory Committee met with business leaders, faith leaders and stakeholders on Thursday to discuss the worryingly worded draft of the new mandate, which will be released next week. 

Some had expressed their personal concerns over the proposed ‘permanent’ mandate online. 

‘I’m a recent transplant to Oregon from Seattle. I have dutifully followed all the ‘mask on-mask off’ rules. I have kept my distance at grocery stores and in DMV lines. I’m also fully vaxxed, boosted, over 65 and retired. So is my wife,’ one person tweeted.

‘But if the state enacts a permanent indoor mask requirement…I’m done with masks…EVERYWHERE AND ANYWHERE. Go ahead and fine me or arrest me. I’ve got plenty of assets to pay fines (if I feel like it) and lots of free time if the state wants to jail (a grandpa). 

‘@OregonGovBrown over several years I lived in Portland and understood back then what it’s coming place to Oregon has become a drug-infested pathetic place with a questionable government now the permanent mask mandate makes it easy to boycott the state,’ another tweeted. 

The announcement of the ‘permanent’ mandate has created a mixed response as some believe that state residents should just comply with the new mandate. 

‘WEAR A F***ING MASK AND GET F***ING VACCINATED OH MY GOD STOP MAKING THIS SO HARD WE WOULDVE BEEN DONE WITH THIS S**T IF IT WASNT FOR YOUR IGNORANT A**ES!’, one tweeted. 

The extended mandate comes amid rising COVID cases and the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Oregon remains one of the only US states to enforce a mask mandate for vaccinated residents

Oregon remains one of the only US states to enforce a mask mandate for vaccinated residents

Despite the lift of the outdoor mandate for the state, 'separate mask rules for indoor spaces, schools and healthcare settings all remain in place'

Despite the lift of the outdoor mandate for the state, ‘separate mask rules for indoor spaces, schools and healthcare settings all remain in place’

Dr. Paul Cieslak, the medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations with Oregon Health Authority (OHA) was quick to assure that permanent didn’t actually mean forever.

He claimed the authority had to use the terminology because the could only have a temporary rule for a maximum of six months, while they wanted to be able to extend it past that if necessary.

‘Permanent means indefinite. It doesn’t necessarily mean permanent,’ Dr. Cieslak said. ‘We can repeal it as well, but we are only allowed to have a temporary rule for 180 days, and anything that goes beyond 180 days, we cannot extend it.’  

Oregon residents will have the opportunity to comment in late December with a public hearing being held in mid-January.

Oregon, which only had its outdoor mask mandate lifted last week, has been one of just six states to continue to require masks inside. – even for the vaccinated.

The extended mandate comes amid rising COVID cases and the spread of the new Omicron variant.     

So far, approximately 80 percent of Oregon residents have received the vaccine. 

‘While it’s great news that more Oregonians are getting vaccinated every day, and children 5-11 are now eligible, it’s also true that most school-age children are not fully vaccinated and masks are an effective way to keep them safe,’ Charles Boyle, the Governor’s Deputy Communications Director, said.

The ‘permanent’ mandate will also be re-evaluated following the upcoming winter season and once more information about Omicron has come out.

‘We’ll be looking at our disease transmission patterns and looking to see where we might be able to step back masks but I think that’s still a few months out,’ Multnomah County health officer Jennifer Vines told KATU.  

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa and has now spread to different countries, including 16 states in the US. 

It is not clear, however, if the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other forms of the virus or can be protected by current vaccines. It also remains unclear how the new variant will affect travel as well as other activities relating to large crowds.     

Recently, a Minnesota man tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 after traveling to a New York City anime convention last month.  

The man, who has not been identified, reportedly alerted health officials in his home state of the potential spread – which he says affected approximately 15 members of the 35-strong friend group.

It is unclear whether any of his friends contracted the Omicron variant – which is thought to be more transmissible than previous versions of the respiratory virus.   

As of November,  mask mandates still apply for vaccinated people in Oregon as well as Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, Hawaii and DC. Nevada also has a mandate for vaccinated people with counties of high transmission only.

Other states including New York, Connecticut and California have a mask mandate but only for those who are unvaccinated. 

The arrival of Omicron comes as hospitals statewide continue to strain under a surge in coronavirus cases, most traced to the Delta variant, along with staffing shortages.

The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.

‘Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,’ she said.

‘A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.’ 

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also spoke with Fox News about his concerns over the rapid rate of the new variant but attempted to calm fears as he claimed there was no reason to panic. 

‘I do think it’s a reason for us to not necessarily panic but to be more vigilant and to recognize that the precautions that we have been talking about for the last year or so are all the more important now than ever,’ Murthy told host Chris Wallace at Fox News. 

‘We do know that the measures that we take to protect ourselves from the spread of COVID — including wearing masks in indoor spaces, being in well-ventilated spaces – those work and will work against omicron,’ he continued.

‘We also know with vaccines, Chris, that even though we’re trying to figure out the exact level of protection our vaccines will give against omicron, in every case we have seen the vaccinated are better off, particularly more protected against hospitalization and death, than the unvaccinated.

‘That’s why we’re urging people to get vaccinated and boosted.’

Despite rising concerns, Murthy said that we are more prepared as compared to the beginning stages of the virus. 

‘I just want to make sure people understand this very clearly: We are not back in March 2020, despite the prospect of a new variant – omicron – on the horizon and despite the fact that we found cases here,’ he said. 

‘We have more tools, we have more knowledge to protect ourselves.’