The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recently announced that it will lift its general indoor mask requirements on or before March 31, 2022. On February 7, 2022, OHA replaced its temporary COVID-19 (coronavirus) indoor mask rules with “permanent” rules, which means the indoor mask mandate continues to be in effect (the temporary rules were set to expire on February 8, 2022). However, alongside the new rules that make the indoor mask mandate “permanent,” OHA announced plans to lift the requirements by March 31, 2022. Under the “permanent” indoor mask rules, everyone needs to wear a mask, face covering, or face shield indoors, regardless of vaccination status (with limited exceptions).
OHA’s announcement says state health officials will consider lifting the general indoor mask mandate sooner than March 31, 2022, if hospitalization levels decline sooner than expected. The new rules also describe the types of information that health officials will consider in deciding whether the rule should remain in effect, such as COVID-19 transmission, hospitalizations, and deaths. OHA also retains the power to reinstate any mask requirements that it lifts, but such an action appears unlikely at this stage in the pandemic. However, OHA has said that it won’t lift the mask mandate for schools any earlier than March 31. Also, according to OHA’s Mask Recommendations & Requirements web page, OHA currently has no plans to lift mask requirements in healthcare settings.
Tips: Once OHA’s mask requirements are lifted, you’re free to drop all mask requirements or apply your own policy to employees and customers. OHA has more information about the updated requirements on their Mask Requirements FAQ web page (updated February 11, 2022).
Oregon employers also need to pay attention to Oregon OSHA’s Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks (OAR 437-001-0744). The agency requires employers to follow OHA’s guidance on masks, but imposes its own workplace requirements, including conducting an exposure risk assessment, establishing an infection control plan, and notifying exposed and affected employees when someone with COVID-19 is present in the workplace. Oregon OSHA’s rule says you must allow employees to voluntarily wear masks even if they’re not required to do so. If an employee chooses to wear a filtering facepiece respirator such as an N95 mask to protect against COVID-19, you must allow it and follow the “voluntary use” provisions of federal OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). See our Model Form, Respirators: Requirements for Voluntary Use. Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 web page says the agency is reviewing its workplace rule to determine whether to repeal any provisions. Vigilant will update members if there are any changes.