Even after months of COVID-19 vaccinations, living in the pandemic is still confusing for Central Oregonians when going out to shops, restaurants, events, and everywhere in between. When buying milk at the grocery store or hiking on a local trail, do you still need to wear a mask?
You may have found yourself asking store workers this question or checking business windows for mask policy updates. We asked around to learn more about where you still need to mask up and where it’s OK to leave the darn thing in your pocket.
Q: Should I mask up at shops and grocery stores?
A: It depends. Some places still have mask mandates in place, including Fred Meyer. Other places are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which permits customers to drop their mask if they have been vaccinated. According to Gov. Kate Brown’s office and the Oregon Health Authority, you’ll need to present your vaccination card to enter the store without a mask. Employees are supposed to check your card but in practice, this does not seem to be happening in many cases.
One easy way to deal with this is just to take a picture of your vaccination card with your phone and keep your original card in a safe place at home.
Aaron Price, store director at Food4Less, said rules are changing frequently and warns that what you hear today could be obsolete by next week. The confusion has angered customers in stores and led to verbal abuse.
“The ever-changing rules are causing hardship for retailers,” said Price. “They frustrate customers and put store workers in dangerous situations.”
Q: How about entertainment venues?
A: For now, most venues still require masks. Stephanie Johnson, events manager at Tower Theater, said masks are required inside the building but patrons may remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking items from concessions. The theater is still following 6-foot social distance guidelines.
Fans of Bend Elks baseball should likewise pack a mask along with their foam finger when they head to the ballpark this summer. When seated, fans can enjoy the game maskless, but will be required to mask up when heading to the bathroom, concessions or other areas of the stadium.
“We will proceed with an overabundance of caution to ensure our players, fans, and staff are safe at Vince Genna Stadium,” said Kelsie Hirko, sales and marketing manager for the Elks.
Masks are still required at the High Desert Museum.
There’s a slightly more relaxed approach at the Deschutes County fairgrounds, where general manager Geoff Hinds said pursuant to current Oregon Health Authority guidelines, members of the public are not required to wear a mask at the fairgrounds if they are vaccinated. Under that guidance, proof of vaccination must be presented before a person can enter the fairgrounds.
However, social distancing requirements remain in place. This includes home games for the Oregon High Desert Storm, a professional indoor arena football club.
Q: I am planning to go to Les Schwab Amphitheater for a concert this summer. Will I be wearing a mask?
A: It’s still too early to tell, said Marney Smith, the amphitheater’s director.
“We just don’t know what the state requirements will be,” said Smith. “If the choice is up to us, we will not require masks or proof of vaccination.”
The key is the state’s vaccination rate, she said.
“The state of Oregon has indicated that once Oregonians reach a 70% vaccination rate, most restrictions will be lifted, but we have been given no indication of what those lifted restrictions will be,” Smith said.
Q: What about mask requirements at high school graduation ceremonies?
A: For outdoor graduation ceremonies — which is what most local high schools plan to do this year — the state is not requiring face masks for students, staff, volunteers, and spectators. School districts may still enforce face masks if they choose, but of the five Central Oregon districts with outdoor ceremonies, all but Redmond, will not require masks, district representatives said.
Redmond will have its graduation ceremonies indoors at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, where face masks are no longer required pursuant to state guidance. According to the guidance, organizations that choose to no longer require masks and physical distancing must require visitors to show proof of vaccination.
Q: I am going to the public pool and other Bend Park & Recreation District facilities. Do I need to mask up?
A: Face coverings are not required for outdoor activities including the district’s youth and adult sports programs, outdoor swimming and roller skating, and when in parks and on trails. For river recreation, be prepared to social distance and to wear a mask on the Ride the River shuttle.
For indoor activities, face coverings are no longer required if full vaccination can be verified by staff at recreation facilities (Larkspur Community Center, Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, and The Pavilion).
For those who are unable or prefer not to verify vaccination, individuals can participate with masks. Everyone is asked to wear a mask when entering the lobby areas initially.
Patrons may bring a vaccination card (a copy or digital photo) when visiting a park facility and the front desk staff will register you as vaccinated so showing the card upon future visits won’t be necessary.
Q: I have a hike planned for this weekend near the Cascade Lakes. Mask needed?
A: “There is no mask requirement on trails or outside,” said Jean Nelson-Dean, spokesperson for the Deschutes National Forest. “We do still have a mask requirement at some of our facilities as we look at the new CDC guidelines to follow them.”
Nelson-Dean added that masks are still required at the Lava River Cave to protect bats from exposure to COVID-19.
Q: My kids signed up for an after-school program through Bend Park & Recreation District. What are the rules now?
A: Mask rules are consistent with Bend-La Pine Schools. Masks are required indoors and participants can remove masks while outdoors and socially distanced.