Democratic Governor of Oregon Kate Brown announced Tuesday that the state will loosen restrictions and allow “indoor full-contact sports” to resume after members of her administration proposed a “permanent” mask mandate earlier this week.
The governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority said the easing of restrictions is being carried out in order to recognize “the importance of athletics for the physical and mental health of Oregon’s youth athletes,” although the new rules apply to people of all ages.
As reported by The Oregonian, “Low-contact indoor sports already were permitted, but the new rules for the first time since last spring will allow Oregonians of all ages to engage in indoor basketball, cheerleading, wrestling and water polo, among other sports, according to the health authority.”
The state’s guidelines for activities are separated into different tiers based on levels of risk for each county. On Tuesday, Governor Brown updated the county risk levels under the current health framework for the state. A press release explained, “The framework uses four different risk levels for counties based on COVID-19 spread—Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk—and assigns health and safety measures for each level.”
According to reporting by The Oregonian, “Brown said earlier this month that no county would be deemed ‘extreme risk’ and experience the toughest public health measures — including prohibitions on indoor dining at restaurants and bars — until hospitalizations reached 300 patients with a 15% increase in the seven-day average in the previous week.”
The move to resume indoor full-contact sports comes after the governor made headlines this week when members of her administration put forward the idea of imposing a “permanent” masking rule since the regulations that are currently in place will expire next month.
The Daily Wire reported:
Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Department, has floated a proposal to keep masking requirements in place until “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.” Wood said that the new “permanent” rule is needed to keep the current regulations from expiring, according to The Associated Press.
The proposal has sparked opposition from the state’s Republican lawmakers. State Sen. Kim Thatcher ripped Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s administration for floating the proposal and throwing additional uncertainty at business owners.
“When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone?” Thatcher said. “Businesses have had to play ‘mask cop’ for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines.”
Wood said he plans to make a decision on the new mandate before the current provision expires on May 4.
The idea reportedly received lots of disapproval. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, led by Wood, received 5,000 comments on the potential rule before the public comment period expired.
“The majority of comments were simply hostile to the entire notion of COVID-19 restrictions,” Wood said. “The vast majority of comments were in the context of, ‘You never needed to do anything.’”
The New York Times’ COVID-19 case tracker displays a slight increase in COVID-19 cases in the state. Oregon Health Authority data shows that over 1.6 million people in Oregon are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have completed their vaccination series. There are an estimated 4.32 million citizens living in Oregon.
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