Confused about masking? You’re not alone, this is the latest

Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) officials updated masking requirements throughout the state. Combined with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, what’s required and where is enigmatic and, sometimes, outright confusing.

Under the updated guidance, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors or in most public settings where vaccination status is checked. In public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required. Residents are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In a press conference Friday, May 14, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, said state residents have a choice: get the COVID-19 vaccination or continue to wear masks and social distance.

Retail businesses and restaurants can relax their masking requirements, but need to confirm the vaccination status of customers before permitting maskless entry. Businesses and venue operators remain free to establish their own, more restrictive policies regarding mask usage.

Businesses, employers and faith institutions can choose to no longer require masks and physical distancing for fully vaccinated individuals or continue to require masks and physical distancing in their locations for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.OHA health experts announced that mask requirements no longer apply to anyone who is outdoors. However, OHA recommends that individuals continue to wear a mask or face covering in crowded areas and large gatherings (such as sporting events), and to maintain physical distance as much as possible. OHA urges unvaccinated individuals and those at risk for complications to wear masks in these settings.

Masks and physical distancing are still required for everyone on public transportation and in schools, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, youth and adult correctional facilities and long-term care facilities.

Those 12 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, but there are no vaccination options for younger children as yet.

Marion County is still at the highest level of risk for COVID-19 infection with more than 1,000 cases confirmed in the past two weeks and an 8.3% COVID test positivity rate. While the number of cases and positive tests are declining in Marion County, it is doing so at a slower rate than other areas of the state and nation. Both of the metrics used to measure risk, the number of cases per 100,000 and test positivity, are well above state averages in Marion County.

Brown said capacity restrictions on dine-in restaurants and stores could be lifted when at least 70% of Oregonians eligible for vaccination have received at least one dose.

On their face, the new guidelines appear to contradict recent changes suggested by the CDC, which indicated fully vaccinated people no longer needed masks or to maintain social distance from others, but the state, local, tribal and territorial guidelines supersede the CDC guidance.

Vaccination remains the best tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. It’s effectiveness against variants and stopping the spread of the infection to others have been key to turning the tide on a more than yearlong pandemic.