Churches must check the vaccination status of members and attendees who aren't wearing masks under new requirements by the state that also apply to businesses and employers.
The Oregon Health Authority released the new rules Tuesday, one week after the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new guidelines that said individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks "in any setting," except where required by local governments or businesses.
The state of Oregon says fully vaccinated citizens can go maskless – but it wants verification first.
The new Oregon policy says "all businesses, employers and faith institutions are required" to "continue to apply and enforce" the mask and physical distancing requirements unless the business, employer or faith institution:
- "Has a policy for checking for proof of vaccination status of individuals."
- "Requests proof of vaccination status from each individual."
- "Reviews each individual's proof of vaccination prior to entry or admission."
"A business, employer or faith institution that has a policy for requesting and checking for proof of vaccination and requests and reviews proof of vaccination may permit fully vaccinated individuals with proof of vaccination to go without a mask, face-covering or face shield, and does not need to enforce physical distancing requirements for such individuals," the new rules state.
Dean Sidelinger, Oregon's health officer and epidemiologist, told The Oregonian that businesses that want to allow customers and employees to remove masks "need to institute a system where individuals can share their vaccination status."
When 70 percent of those ages 16 and over are vaccinated, he said, the state will re-evaluate the restrictions.
The rules may be the strictest in the nation. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order on Tuesday prohibiting businesses and schools from requiring masks. Abbott said the state is defeating COVID-19 "through the use of widely available vaccines." Governors in other states, including South Carolina and Iowa, have signed similar bills.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Yaroslav Olieinikov
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.