Salem, you’re going to be free – Oregon pandemic limits going away

Gov. Kate Brown listens to an update from the state Employment Department during a revenue briefing on Monday, April 20. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem residents can drop their masks and pack into restaurants starting no later than Wednesday, June 30, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday.

Brown said the state would end nearly all of its Covid-related restrictions by then, regardless of the number of people vaccinated against the disease. 

“We will lift the safety protocols we have relied on and reopen our economy,” Brown said during a news conference. “Oregon is effectively 100% open for business.”

The announcement means an end to capacity restrictions at restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms, museums, churches and other businesses and venues across the state.

The state will no longer require people to wear masks inside restaurants, businesses, schools or most other settings. Brown said some mask mandates would remain in health care settings, at airports and on public transit to meet federal guidelines.

Brown had planned to drop the restrictions once 70% of adult Oregonians had received one dose of vaccine.

But as the number of people starting vaccination has slowed dramatically over the past week, the projected date for hitting that target has moved out. 

As of Thursday, June 24, Oregon was expected to reach Brown’s original 70% target on July 7, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Brown said she chose to set a definitive date for dropping restrictions to give businesses certainty about when they could reopen. The move brings Oregon in line with Washington, where Gov. Jay Inslee has also set a June 30 reopening date.

About 69% of adult Oregonians have received at least one dose of vaccine, about 35,000 shy of Brown’s target. In Polk County, it’s about 65% of adults, and about 60% in Marion County.

For schools, decisions about health and safety guidelines will be left now to local authorities, state schools chief Colt Gill said during the news conference. He said the state expects schools to return to normal class teaching in the fall.

The state is expected to release a final set of Covid-related school guidelines in July, but those will be advisory. Decisions like whether to require masks in class would be left up to local school boards, district leaders or county health departments.

Brown said Oregon’s focus will shift toward recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, as well as ongoing vaccination efforts.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.