Oregon OSHA: Mask mandate may be permanent but not really

Coronavirus

OSHA set to make decision later this week

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In late 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration put a mask mandate in effect during the pandemic. They’re now proposing a permanent extension — but make it clear the mask mandate won’t be permanent.

The intricacies and nuance of Oregon state law force Oregon OSHA to make one of two decisions: either let the emergency order expire after 180 days or make it permanent.

So even though OSHA may make the mask mandate permanent, agency officials say they have no intention of keeping the mask mandate forever. They only plan to keep it in place until COVID becomes so rare co-workers wouldn’t be spreading it to each other.

As it is, the current emergency order would expire on May 4. With less than 30% of Oregonians fully vaccinated and with the recent uptick in COVID cases, OHSA representatives say masks are still needed right now.

“I think it’s about staying on this path and using a number of measures that we know can be effective. And then, hopefully, we can just get through this and move on,” said Oregon OSHA’s Aaron Corvin. “But right now, from our perspective, we’re really trying to do everything we can to defeat this pandemic.”

As soon as vaccination rates increase reaching stronger immunity levels and COVID is no longer spreading widely, OSHA officials said they would repeal the mask mandate.

“It goes back to this notion of approaching this in a multifaceted way where we’re encouraging vaccinations. We’re taking those safety measures, those steps that we need to in the workplace to try and beat back this virus,” Corvin said.

Agency officials said they received more than 5000 comments from the public about this proposal and are evaluating and responding to all of them. They plan to make an announcement about the mask mandate sometime this week.

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