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Portland businesses prepare for the end of the mask mandate

Some businesses said they're happy about the end of the indoor mask mandate, while others are still deciding how they will handle it.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been almost two years since Oregon's first indoor mask mandate took effect, and nearly seven months since the arrival of the delta variant prompted the start of a renewed mandate last summer.

On March 12, the rules are set to change again. In response to declining COVID case rates, Oregon will end its mask mandate for schools and indoor public spaces, leaving it up to individual businesses to set their own policies.

Portland-area businesses have had mixed reactions to the news. Some of them, like Deena Hughes, store manager at Kiehl's on Northwest 23rd, are happy to see the last of the masks. 

"We've been doing a lot of policing of the masks," she said. "It's work, it's a situation where rather than welcoming our customers into the store and making it a fun experience, we have to see if they're wearing it correctly."

RELATED: Oregon colleges and universities update mask requirements

Hughes' store specializes in skin care and, come Saturday, masks will be optional inside. 

"A lot of my team has already decided they're going to continue to wear masks," she sasid. "We work with the public; there's obviously some benefits to keeping ourselves safe and not spreading all the germs." 

At Potala Imports on Hawthorne Street, owner Dondup Lama said he's going to require his customers to wear masks a bit longer.

"I'm thinking I will do one more week, because I myself am 70-years-old, so it's easy for me to get infected, so I will do one week," he said.

RELATED: Washington hospital leaders recommend masking indoors despite lifting mandates

Other business owners who spoke to KGW said they're still deciding if they want to drop the mask requirements inside their stores. One resident said he's going to remain cautious as well.

"I think I'm going to keep the mask handy, I haven't had a cold or allergies for the last two years, I'm going to keep it," Terry said. "Outside, I'm going to do away with it of course."

Once the state mandate is lifted, people will still be required to wear a mask in healthcare settings, airports and public transportation, in accordance with federal rules.

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