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Oregon Makes Indoor Mask Mandate Permanent, but May Lift by March 31

February 8, 2022

By Heather J. Van Meter

On Monday, the Oregon Health Authority issued a permanent rule, OAR 333-019-1025, making the state’s indoor mask mandate permanent unless, and until, an order is issued by the Public Health Director or Health Officer rescinding some or all of the permanent indoor mask mandate. The Public Health Director or Health Officer is also authorized to reinstate some or all of the permanent indoor mask mandate if the Director or Officer deems it necessary. This rule permanently replaces the prior temporary rule imposing an indoor mask mandate, which was set to expire on February 8 (temporary rules cannot be longer than 180 days).

Despite adopting the permanent rule, the Oregon Health Authority, in a press release, stated it intends to lift the indoor mask mandate, as well as the mandate for masks at schools, by March 31 or earlier. 

Although the rule repeatedly references COVID-19, it is unclear if the indoor mask mandate is limited to COVID-19 or if it may be invoked in the future if the Public Health Director or Health Officer deems it necessary. The permanent rule does reference its necessity due to COVID-19. The indoor mask mandate is not contingent upon the existence of a declared public health emergency and is not contingent upon the Governor’s existing declared public health emergency for COVID-19. 

Masks must be worn indoors at all public spaces at all times except if a person is: 
(a) under five years of age or not yet in kindergarten (unless using public transportation, in which case 2-5 year olds must wear masks);
(b) sleeping;
(c) actively eating or drinking;
(d) engaged in an activity that makes wearing a mask not feasible, such as swimming;
(e) in a private individual workspace;
(f) briefly removing the mask to confirm identity, such as at a bank or with law enforcement;
(g) practicing or playing a competitive sport;
(h) officiating a competitive sport that requires a high level of physical exertion by the official; or
(i) performing music, delivering a speech to an audience, and theater.

Persons and entities controlling indoor spaces must enforce the mask mandate for all employees, visitors, and customers, as well as post signs at entrances requiring masks to be worn. Civil penalties of up to $500 per person per day continue to apply. 

For employers, this means that the indoor mask mandate and mask mandate at schools continue for now. It may be lifted on or before March 31 but could be reinstated if public health officials deem it necessary. Health care employers must continue to comply with the healthcare setting mask mandate, which remains in effect. The separate schools mask mandate, also recently extended, will be lifted on March 31, according to OHA and Governor Brown press releases, but will give authority to continue mask mandates to local school districts.

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.

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