Oregon Health Authority’s New Mask Guidance Affecting Oregon Businesses

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Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC

With the onset of colder weather, the return of students to colleges, and pandemic fatigue, the news is that the next six to twelve weeks could be the worst yet for the pandemic. The number of positive test results is rapidly increasing, as are the number of people needing to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. With all this in play, on October 19, 2020, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced a revised mask guidance for all Oregonians.

The new guidance, which can be found here, includes provisions about workplaces, markets and events, educational institutions, and clarifies that face shields do not provide sufficient protection from the virus. In a nutshell, the new guidance:

  • Provides that all individuals who are within 6 feet of someone who is not a family member should wear a mask.
  • Clarifies that children over the age of 2 should wear a mask.
  • States that face shields are not recommended to be used as a replacement for a cloth or paper mask. While face shield do block droplets that the wearer might release, they are not effective at limiting “aerosols” that go around the shield. Face shields should be used only when an individual has a medical condition that prevents the wearer from using a cloth or paper mask, when communication requires the ability to see mouth and tongue motion (e.g., lip reading), or when addressing an audience for a short period and the mask impedes clear communication. In addition to face shields, the guidance also discourages the use of “mesh masks, lace masks or other coverings with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material, or vents.”
  • Encourages use of a microphone instead of yelling to communicate at distances, and also encourages the continued use of video conferencing instead of in-person meetings.
  • Notes that this guidance applies to businesses, which include grocery and retail stores, malls, restaurants, fitness-related organizations, indoor and outdoor entertainment facility operators (zoos, museums, drive-in movie theaters, raceways, outdoor gardens, and aquariums), indoor and outdoor licensed swimming pools, licensed spa pools, and sports court operators in phase one and two counties, indoor and outdoor markets and street fairs, indoor and outdoor recreational sports operators for specified sports, pharmacies, private career schools and public and private colleges and universities, public transit agencies and providers and other ride sharing services, youth programs, and in phase two counties only, indoor and outdoor entertainment facility and venue operators.
  • Provides that businesses and those responsible for indoor and outdoor spaces open to the public, and for private work spaces and public work spaces, must:
    • Strongly encourage employees working indoors to wear a mask, unless the employee is not working directly with the public and is in a large area (like a warehouse) where 6 feet of distance can be maintained.
    • Provide masks to employees, customers, and visitors who do not have their own.
    • Provide reasonable accommodations where wearing a mask is not possible.
    • Post signs regarding the mask requirement. OHA approved signs can be found here.
    • Educate employees regarding how to communicate safely with someone who cannot wear a mask, and how to accommodate an individual who needs to lip read.
  • States that masks do not have to be worn when eating or drinking, or where not feasible, like when swimming.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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