Oregon officially reopened for business and pleasure on Wednesday, after more than 15 months with strict rules to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Oregon OSHA officials have removed facial coverage and physical distancing requirements, with a few exceptions like at healthcare facilities and airports, following a statement last week by Governor Kate Brown. .
At A-Boy Hardware in southwest Portland, manager Lisa Brown dismantled all of the plexiglass from the cash registers and ended the one-way entry and exit system. She said masks are no longer a requirement either.
“Certainly, if anyone wishes to wear a mask, he is more than welcome. And we have many employees who have chosen to wear masks today, ”said Brown. “We always provide them, we always have them if they want them.”
Many protections will remain in place in the store, such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and wipes for cleaning frequently touched areas, such as credit card machines.
“We’re not pretending it’s all back to normal,” Brown said. “But this is the new normal.”
Outside, retiree Michael Thomas buys perennials for his garden. He wears a mask, but on the chin. He said the grand reopening doesn’t look much different.
“Most of the places I go need masks and they may need them after today too,” Thomas said.
New Seasons Market officials have said it will no longer require customers to wear masks or maintain physical distance in Oregon stores, regardless of vaccination status. The company said fully vaccinated staff can remove their masks if they show proof of vaccination.
Fred Meyer takes a somewhat different approach. The company said fully vaccinated customers and associates no longer needed to wear masks in stores in Oregon or Washington. The vaccination status of employees will be verified, but customers will be on the honor system.
“Unvaccinated associates will need to wear a mask,” a spokesperson for Fred Meyer said. “We ask unvaccinated clients to continue to wear a mask. “
Much of the Portland State University campus was quiet on Wednesday. But a few students sat on the grass having lunch. Second year Alex Engelhardt called the reopening “kind of a relief”.
“As someone who has been vaccinated, I feel like I will be quite comfortable being outside, in public spaces, without a mask. I’m nervous about the variants and stuff – what that means for unvaccinated people, and vaccinated people too, I guess, with everything without a mask, ”she said.
PSU announced on Wednesday that with the state lifting the majority of coronavirus-related restrictions, including the six-foot physical distancing rule, it is also relaxing the occupancy limits for classrooms and common spaces – such as elevators and bathrooms. The university has said it will allow outside groups to host events on campus again, although events of more than 250 people will require additional consideration.
Nonetheless, the PSU will continue to require indoor face coverings in all public and shared spaces.
Engelhardt said she would agree to an optional face mask policy.
“I would feel pretty good about that at PSU, mainly because they require vaccinations in the fall, so as long as everyone around me is vaccinated – definitely. I would love to see people’s faces again, ”she said.
Engelhardt said she was not yet sure how she felt about going into businesses that might no longer need masks,
“I haven’t done this for so long that I feel like I would still be wearing a mask for a while, just for comfort,” she said.
PSU graduate student Gema Lacayo felt the same feelings of relief and caution.
“It is high time, but obviously we all have to be careful because there are variations,” she said. “We shouldn’t just run out of resources, like it’s not all gone. We are still in a pandemic. “
In Newport, most people walking around the Nye Beach neighborhood were unmasked on Wednesday. But cafes and stores still require face coverings. Sylvia Beach Hotel general manager Cyb Cannizzaro said his staff have no plans to lift the mask’s mandate or change distancing protocols anytime soon.
“We’ve had some very thoughtful meetings, thinking about it every week since our return last July,” Cannizzaro said.
Hotel meetings involve everyone, including chefs and cleaning staff.
Cannizzaro said many of their visitors are seniors and she feels obligated to make sure they are protected from breakthrough infections. The capacity of the dining room will therefore remain limited.
“We really think it’s premature. We base our policy on WHO, ”said Cannizzaro, referring to the World Health Organization, which continues to recommend the wearing of masks even for people who have been vaccinated.
The reopening does not mean that all OSHA COVID-19 requirements are gone completely. For example, optimizing ventilation is still needed in restaurants and shops, as are notifications of positive cases in the workplace.
“It is heartwarming to see that we have come this far and that the situation is improving,” said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. “But the risks remain real, especially for those who are not fully immunized. Therefore, from a risk management perspective, it makes sense to keep certain provisions of our workplace requirements longer.
At Petunia’s Place, a gift shop just around the corner from Sylvia Beach Hotel, a sign on the door has been flipped so that its capacity limits during Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions are hidden. Owner Carolyn Ackerman said she no longer needed masks, but not because she thought it was time to end social distancing measures.
“I am very afraid to reopen today. I think Governor Brown made a huge mistake in lifting the mask mandate, ”she said.
Ackerman said she was particularly concerned about the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
“I think the delta variant is going to give us a left hook. That’s why I always wear my mask, ”said Ackerman, who is vaccinated.
But now that the mandate is over, she will no longer ask her clients. Ackerman said after being yelled at, spat and cursed while enforcing Oregon’s masking and ability restrictions, it would not be prudent for her to apply stricter rules than those imposed by Oregon.
“I applied the mask mandate for my community. But when someone assaulted me? My well-being is more important than that of my community at this time.
Bend’s most popular public swimming pool, the Juniper Swim and Fitness Center, is packed with swimmers, jubilant kids, and watchful parents like Elizabeth Banderas.
“When I woke up today I knew I had to bring the kids here to do something,” she said.
The outing marked the family’s first return to an overcrowded public space since state emergency ordinances came into effect in March 2020.
“Getting out of the car today, I didn’t make them grab their masks, and they were like, ‘Mom, you forgot our masks.’ And I’m like, ‘We don’t need masks today.’ And they said, ‘What ?! Is the coronavirus over?’
The pool abandoned masking requirements and opened to capacity. But, Banderas is not yet ready to call him.
“I would say, proceed with caution,” she said. “Because not everyone is still vaccinated.”
Bend Parks and Recreation District Director of Recreation Services Sue Glenn said she will be sure to ask clients about their immunization status.
“We are relieved that we do not have this responsibility. We want everyone to make the right decision for themselves, ”she said.
Bend Hospital continues to report a steady flow of COVID-19 patients, as it serves both the larger metropolitan areas east of the Cascades and rural counties with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the world. State.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said areas with low vaccination rates should consider imposing their own restrictions. He also warned that the more transmissible delta variant would likely become the dominant strain.
In a small town near the Oregon-Idaho border, Bob Holmes was having a great day.
“For the first time since March 15, 2020, we are at full capacity. No restrictions, ”the owner of Bob’s Steak N ‘Spirits told Nyssa.
No more masks. No physical distancing.
Holmes has, however, decided to maintain additional consolidation measures. He likes the idea of cleaning up the condiments between customers.
By late morning he was getting ready for lunch service and getting ready to bring the tables and chairs inside to increase capacity. More than a year of pandemic closures and restrictions have been difficult, both financially and emotionally.
“I’m 67 years old,” he says. “The first stop was extremely difficult. I couldn’t even walk into my building and see it close.
He had planned to put the place up for sale in January 2021. But now the retirement is on hold. Maybe when he turns 70.
“The governor has to let us operate so that I can recoup the value of my business, my employees can be assured of working full time,” he said. “We just have to get back to doing business. “
This case will take place in a county with one of the lowest vaccination rates in Oregon. About 36% of people over 16 in Malheur County have received at least one injection of the COVID-19 vaccine.