Oregon and Washington Governors Announce Plans to Revise Mask and Distancing Requirements in the Wake of Updated CDC Guidance

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As we wrote about here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) announced yesterday that fully vaccinated individuals can resume normal day-to-day activities without wearing masks or socially distancing. Hours later, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced plans for each state to relax its respective mask and social-distancing requirements in a manner consistent with the new CDC guidance.


Oregon will follow the CDC’s guidance as a matter of state public health policy. Accordingly, fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks or socially distance in most public spaces. Note that, as with the CDC’s guidance, this does not apply to public transportation, hospitals, health clinics and long-term care facilities, or correctional facilities. In the coming days, the Oregon Health Authority will provide updated guidance for businesses to allow the option of lifting mask and distancing requirements for individuals who can verify their vaccination status. Until further guidance is issued, the face covering and social distancing guidelines for businesses and employers remain unchanged.

In many respects, Governor Brown’s statement leaves more questions than answers. For example, the fate of Oregon OSHA’s requirements regarding physical distancing and the use of face coverings in the workplace is far from clear. (We discussed the Oregon OSHA rule last week.) Will employers still be required to enforce physical-distancing and face-covering requirements if employees and visitors are fully vaccinated? If not, how will employers ensure that individuals are indeed fully vaccinated such that the physical-distancing and face-covering requirements can be relaxed? It remains to be seen.


Not to be outpaced by its southern neighbor, Washington will also adopt the CDC’s mask guidance for fully vaccinated people. The Washington Department of Health and Labor and Industries plans to update state guidance soon. Notably, Washington does not intend to require individuals to prove their vaccination status; however, businesses have the discretion to require proof of vaccination. Businesses also retain the right to require customers to wear masks.

Governor Inslee stated that Washington is on the path to a statewide full reopening by June 30 or earlier if 70% of Washingtonians age 16 and older receive their first vaccine. Further, effective May 18, all Washington counties will be in Phase 3 of the Reopening Plan. Under Phase 3, places of worship, retail stores, restaurants, sports venues and gyms, and other personal services can increase maximum indoor capacity to 50%.

If you have any questions about mask or social distancing requirements in Oregon or Washington, or any other topic related to COVID 19, please contact one of our labor and employment attorneys.

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