Central Oregon businesses, employers and churches are trying to figure out how they’ll respond to the new mask mandates for the fully vaccinated.
What they do know for sure: They don’t want to put their employees in the position of policing the mandates by asking for proof of vaccination.
Several said they would just keep the established policies of requiring a mask indoors and maintaining a physical distance.
“We have heard from many businesses who are struggling to interpret how to use the new guidelines,” said Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO. “They are in the position of gatekeepers in allowing unmasked access to vaccinated employees and customers. This is a difficult position when there can be many views on the issue, making interactions difficult at times.”
During this transition period, it’s normal for people to be confused, Brooks said.
Businesses owners can allow fully vaccinated customers to enter their establishments without a mask, but only after seeing proof of the vaccination, under Oregon Health Authority guidelines released Tuesday. The proof can be a picture or the actual card issued from a government agency or health care provider that includes a name, age, dates of vaccines, who issued those vaccines and the name of the vaccine.
If a customer refuses, the guidance requires the person to wear a mask indoors.
If a business doesn’t want to do the policing, it has the option of requiring all customers and employees, whether vaccinated or not, to wear a face covering.
“Businesses will need a policy for checking, requesting the proof of a vaccine and review that proof,” said Aaron Corvin, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health spokesman. “Businesses can do a yes/no determination and don’t need to reproduce a record.”
The rules over masks for those fully vaccinated also apply to places of worship.
The Oregon Health Authority issued new guidelines that expanded on Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to follow last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement regarding masks.
At Deschutes Brewery’s restaurants, tasting room and brewing facility, it’s going to be business as usual, said Michael LaLonde, company CEO. Everyone will wear a mask indoors and everyone will maintain the physical distance.
“It’s so frustrating,” LaLonde said. “I’m absolutely astonished at how the CDC and Kate Brown have handled this situation without coordination so that businesses would have to understand what the rules are and how to follow them.”
Carol DeRose, owner of La Rosa in NorthWest Crossing, felt the same as LaLonde. She didn’t want to put her employees in the position of asking for proof of vaccination.
“We have not changed our policy,” DeRose said. “I don’t want to put our employees in that position. We’re cleaner than most hospitals and most homes. It’s been a rough year.”
If a complaint is filed against a business, Oregon’s OSHA investigators will determine if enforcement action is necessary and any action depends on the circumstances, Corvin said.
At the Pine Tavern in downtown Bend, owner Bill McCormick said that employees will continue to wear masks and so will customers until they’re seated.
“When it comes to the new protocols, it puts us in an awkward situation,” McCormick said. “We’re in the business of hospitality, and they (health officials) are asking us to be cops. It’s an interesting transition period for everyone.”