Oregon will require businesses to verify vaccination before letting customers drop masks

Oregon will require businesses to verify vaccination before letting customers drop masks
·3 min read
oregon mask
People wearing masks in Lake Oswego, Oregon on April 11. Gillian Flaccus/AP
  • Oregon says businesses must ask for proof of vaccination from mask-less customers.

  • Asking for proof of the COVID-19 vaccine could create complications for workers and business owners.

  • Some businesses are worried about enforcing this rule, a spokesman for Oregon Business and Industry told the New York Times.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Fully vaccinated Oregonians can now go mask-less in most places. But if you plan on heading to a private business, be prepared to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status.

On May 13, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated Americans will no longer have to mask up as rigorously in most indoor and outdoor locations. And shortly after, on May 18, Oregon updated its face mask and physical distancing protocols to match the CDC's overhauled guidelines.

But unlike the CDC's announcement - which left private companies without much guidance - Oregon says workspaces, businesses, and "faith institutions" that want to lift their own mask mandate must have a policy in place for checking the COVID-19 vaccination status of mask-less visitors and patrons. This is a deviation from states like Florida, which have already banned local businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.

As per the CDC's guidelines, several private companies have also already lifted their own face covering protocols for fully vaccinated customers pending state and local mandates. And a few of these companies - including Costco and Trader Joe's - have announced they will be relying on the "honor system" instead of requiring proof of vaccination from mask-less customers.

However, this trust system could create "great confusion," Larry Barton, a professor of crisis management and public safety at University of Central Florida, told Insider.

"I have zero confidence if I'm a retailer that just because someone claims that they're vaccinated, that they are," Barton said. "It could be that they're lazy and they don't want to put on a mask, or it could be that they're an anti-vaxxer and simply tell me what they want me to hear."

Oregon is seemingly trying to stay away from this "honor system" with its new guidance. However, the state's decision to require businesses to request proof of vaccination from un-masked patrons could create a new set of complications.

And now, several businesses in the state are worried about "putting their frontline workers in a potentially untenable position when dealing with customers," Nathaniel Brown, a spokesperson for Oregon Business and Industry, told the New York Times's Bryan Pietsch. OBI represents over 1,600 businesses in the state, according to its website.

"What will we have in society to prove vaccination?" Barton said. "We're a long, long way from that."

Barton explains that there are three possibilities of what a customer might do if a business asks them for proof of vaccination: the patron could either show their CDC vaccine card, verification of the vaccine on an app, or defy the protocols and not show any confirmation at all.

"We have serious concerns about the practicality of requiring business owners and workers to be the enforcer," Sandra McDonough, president and CEO of Oregon Business and Industry, told Insider in an email statement."We have raised our concerns with the state and asked regulators to give business owners maximum flexibility when it comes to vaccine verification processes."

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