VANCOUVER, Wash. — It's been nearly two weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated, but there is still confusion and inconsistency with masking rules in Oregon and Washington.
To mask or not to mask: that is the question many have been asking lately.
CDC guidelines say if you are fully vaccinated, you don't need to wear a mask in most situations, indoors or outdoors. It's the indoors part that's been challenging for states to address.
“Washington kind of went with the honor system, which I think some businesses like and some don't from what we hear,” said Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health officer for Clark County. Krager said at least the guidelines offer flexibility for businesses.
“They can kind of decide how they want to do things. If they want to require masks, they can do that. If not then they're going to kind of rely on the honor system for if they're fully vaccinated if they're going to come in unmasked.”
KGW’s Tim Gordon did an informal check for masking rules at some of his routine stops in Clark County.
First, the local convenience store, which had a yellow sign on the door that said, "Please continue to wear a mask…" while they wait for more guidance.
At the nearby Fred Meyer, there was a mixed message. The sign said, "No mask no entry" for all customers and associates. But in the upper left, it says masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals.
At Target, face coverings are "strongly recommended" for guests who are not vaccinated.
One thing in common throughout the area was that the vast majority of folks Gordon saw were still wearing masks inside anyway.
In Oregon, he found most people in the Portland area are still masking up too.
But enforcing the new mask rules has been a challenge, Oregon's governor said, in part because the new CDC guidance came out with no warning.
“And so we are doing the best that we can to work with the business community, our faith leaders too, to ensure we are protecting Oregonians,” said Gov. Kate Brown.
The difference in Oregon is the state's requirement that businesses and other indoor venues like churches verify vaccination status for unmasked individuals.
That is not going well.
A local Catholic church isn't verifying vaccination status or requiring masks, KGW learned last Sunday.
The same can be said for some big retailers, including Costco in Tigard, allowing people inside without masks but not checking for proof of vaccination. Walmart in Tigard has also been going with the honor system instead.
Gov. Brown said the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the ability to enforce the verification law, but she didn't say it should.
“I've certainly heard from the business community, retail workers and others. I'm certainly committed to refining our approach here,” said Brown. “But the good news is the science shows masks are extremely effective and the goal here is to get more people vaccinated.”
Oregon Republican leaders sent a letter to Gov. Brown Tuesday, pleading for a change in the mask enforcement rules. They said Oregon should not be the only state on the West Coast requiring businesses to check for proof of vaccination.
Their letter said in part, "unlike Washington and California... Oregon's response puts pressure on businesses and exposes front-line workers to confrontation."