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Despite mixed messaging, Oregon's indoor mask mandate remains in place

Mixed messages from the state leaves some residents and business owners thinking the mask mandate is lifted.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Whether or not a mask is required in Oregon businesses should be an easy question to answer. As of May 17th, Oregon's rules do require people to wear masks indoors.

But after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) announcement on May 13th, which said fully vaccinated people can ditch the mask for most indoor environments, and Gov. Kate Brown’s statement that Oregon would follow CDC guidance, it's hard to blame anyone who thinks the mask mandate is gone in Oregon.

It is not gone.

In fact, when it comes to indoor retail businesses, nothing has changed. Masks are still required everywhere in Oregon inside businesses.

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) leaders are working on their own rules to go along with the CDC, but it’s not ready yet.

Last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said he expected the new rules will include a requirement that customers show vaccination cards before they enter businesses without a mask.

Many business owners are against the idea, including Dan Afrasiabi who owns several Planet Fitness gyms in Oregon.

“We think some sort of honor system consistent with what president Biden and the CDC have said, as they've outlined, are sufficient to achieve the right balance for businesses and Oregon citizens,” Afrasiabi said.

He added that his gyms will follow whatever guidance the OHA comes up with, but he does not like the idea of his staff checking for vaccination proof.

“Standard retail teams are just not trained to be able to review things like vaccination cards or photos of vaccination cards - so it just needs to be well thought out,” Afrasiabi said.

In the meantime, mask mandates are all over the board in both Oregon and Washington. Washington allowed businesses to drop the mask rule for those who are fully vaccinated and is not requiring proof.

During phone calls to find out how stores handled the rules, we began in Vancouver with a Target store. We were told they were not requiring masks for those who are vaccinated.

A Vancouver area Walmart was requiring masks, which seemed to go against its national corporate policy.

A Vancouver Starbucks said masks were still required, even though the corporate office issued a statement, which said masks for those fully vaccinated were not needed unless mandated by local law.

In the Portland area, the Hillsboro Costco reported customers did not need a mask if fully vaccinated.

A Portland area Target said they were not enforcing mask use by customers.

A Portland area Walmart also did not require masks for those who said they were fully vaccinated.

A Starbucks store in NW Portland said masks were still being required and customers could not sit inside to sip coffee.

Have a story idea or comment for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com