July 27, 2021
Following a recent surge in COVID-19 cases largely due to the Delta variant, Multnomah County issued a new advisory on July 26, strongly urging everyone age five years and up to wear masks indoors around people outside the same household. One day later, on July 27, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance reversing course and recommending everyone to wear masks indoors whether vaccinated or not in many parts of the country, including large portions of Oregon and Washington. The CDC also recommends that all employees and students wear masks at K-12 schools, a recommendation that is likely to extend into the Fall as schools re-open.
Employers, schools, and businesses are immediately affected by these new advisories.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Beginning today, July 27, 2021, the CDC has reversed course and now recommends wearing masks indoors for everyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, in all counties where the spread of COVID-19 cases are “substantial” or “high,” which is most of the counties in Oregon and Washington. Previously, the CDC only recommended masks for unvaccinated persons.
The CDC also reversed course on its schools guidance, now following the American Academy of Pediatrics in recommending all persons, including staff and students, vaccinated or unvaccinated, wear masks indoors at schools. This recommendation is expected to extend into the Fall and re-start of school. In addition, state health agencies in Oregon and Washington are in the process of reviewing and revising guidance for Fall school opening, and new rules are expected in the next one to two weeks.
According to the CDC, the Delta variant of COVID-19 now makes up over 80% of the COVID-19 cases. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible than other variants, meaning it spreads easier from person to person. Additionally, the Delta variant spreads more effectively, with higher viral loads transmitted from person to person, spreading regardless of vaccination status. This means vaccinated persons can still become infected with the Delta variant and spread it to others, whether the person knows of the infection or has symptoms or not. Although research is ongoing, the currently available vaccines appear to still be effective at reducing severe illness and death, although possibly at reduced rates than prior variants. Advisories for booster shots for vaccinated persons are under study and consideration.
Multnomah County and Oregon State
Due to the recent rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases, especially with the rapidly spreading Delta variant, the Multnomah County Health Department, on July 26, 2021, issued a new advisory strongly urging everyone age five years and up to wear masks indoors. The advisory does not extend to people in the same household, such as at home or in the car with household members. In all other settings, essentially any time a person is outside the home or car, masks are strongly urged to be worn. Mask usage is urged whether a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated.
This increased mask usage is not a requirement yet but is strongly urged on a voluntary basis. If the recent rise in COVID-19 cases continues, mask usage is more likely to become required.
This advisory only applies to Multnomah County, although other counties may soon be issuing similar advisories or requirements, following CDC guidance. Each county’s public health department has the authority to issue health advisories, such as wearing masks, for the county as needed. For updated information in each county, consult the county public health department website.
Additionally, although the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Brown have not issued any statewide advisories or requirements for increased mask usage, they are actively being considered.
Masks and physical distancing continue to be required on all public transit, at airports and transportation facilities, at correctional and youth/adult detention facilities, in shelters and transitional housing, and at all healthcare facilities. Schools and childcare facilities also have special mask and physical distancing rules.
For the time being, employers, businesses, and offices can require masks for workers, visitors, and customers if they choose to do so. However, this may change to mandatory if the county or state issues a new mask requirement.
For more information or advice on handling mask usage at your business or place of employment, contact Bullard Law.
The content of this Alert is provided for general information purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for consulting an attorney for legal advice.