Oregon’s top health administrator is considering a permanent masking rule as other states continue to reverse restrictive COVID-19 regulations.
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.
Over a dozen states have removed mask mandates as Americans continue to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and the threat of the disease diminishes. A handful of states never implemented such measures.
President Joe Biden and his health officials continue to urge people to wear masks, and the president has mocked those states that are lifting their mandates and reopening as the threat of COVID-19 diminishes as more and more Americans are vaccinated. After Texas and Mississippi removed mask mandates earlier this year, Biden said such rollbacks in regulations amounted to “Neanderthal thinking.”
“I think it’s a big mistake,” Biden said reacting to the decisions of Texas and Mississippi. “Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.”
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in mean time everything’s fine, take off your mask,” Biden continued. “Forget it. It’s still matters. … And it’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distance. And I know you all know that, I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted COVID-19 regulations from his state on March 2. Since then, Texas’ COVID-19 numbers have dropped significantly as federal experts such as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci have continued to warn that lifting mask mandates could lead to spikes in cases. As The Daily Wire reported:
Nearly a month after Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), announced he was lifting the state’s mask mandate, new daily cases in the Lone Star State continue on a downward trend, once again beating “expert” predictions of dire consequences.
When Abbott announced the end to the mask mandate, Texas’ 7-day average for new cases was at 7,259 — it’s now roughly half that. Daily cases have also declined by about half since the mask mandate was lifted. Deaths also continue to drop.
Cases in Texas have continued to remain relatively stable.