The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is requiring that people in workplaces, businesses, and religious sites show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to be allowed maskless entry to the facilities.
The state’s health authorities updated their masking guidance on May 19, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) rollback of strict mask mandates.
“Businesses, employers and faith institutions now have the option to adjust their masking guidance to allow fully vaccinated individuals to no longer wear a mask in their establishments,” the OHA declared in a statement.
“Businesses, employers and faith institutions doing so must have a policy in place to check the vaccination status of all individuals before they enter their establishment. Businesses, employers and faith institutions who do not create such policies will maintain the same masking guidance listed below, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.”
The statewide policy is the first of the kind in the country and is raising concerns for those who don’t want to wear masks or take the vaccine due to a number of concerns including safety, side effects, efficacy, mistrust in pharmaceutical companies, and a lack of full FDA approval. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in late March flagged vaccine passport systems’ potential problems in an opinion piece, arguing they would create two tiers of unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
A spokesperson for business group Oregon Business and Industry, Nathaniel Brown, told the New York Times that they “have serious concerns about the practicality of requiring business owners and workers to be the enforcer.”
“We are hearing from retailers and small businesses who are concerned about putting their frontline workers in a potentially untenable position when dealing with customers,” Brown said.
On May 16, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that local governments, but not federal, will be driving “vaccine mandates” of this type.
“We’re not counting on vaccine mandates at all. It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions will work toward vaccine mandates. That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven,” Walensky told NBC.
New York, which is offering free vaccination and incentives to get the shot, released in March an application that could act as a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
The application is named “Excelsior Pass,” and local authorities are thinking about requiring it for sports events, weddings, and businesses.
“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement.
With the move, Oregon is the first state to implement a system that requires people entering workplaces, businesses, and religious sites to show proof of vaccination.