CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — Even as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved earlier this month to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, some blue states like Oregon and Washington are still holding on to certain longtime coronavirus restrictions.
While Northwest states are adapting the new federal mask guidance they are maintaining indoor capacity restrictions, likely through the end of June.
Officials in Oregon are split, some insisting life will soon feel like how it did in 2019, but first more people need to get vaccinated. And others say restrictions have lasted far too long and people are exhausted.
After public pressure, Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, last week lifted a requirement for masks outdoors and put the onus on businesses to decide if fully vaccinated patrons would be required to mask up inside.
But enforcement of business capacity limits, publicized cases of student athletes passing out while competing or practicing in a mask and a widespread shut-down of indoor dining earlier this month continue to stoke resentment among those who feel Brown’s rules go too far as the rest of the U.S. returns to normal.
In Oregon, pushback has been particularly strong in rural areas — which is much of the state outside Portland — and has included an effort by at least one county to become a “vaccine sanctuary” where people wouldn’t have to mask up regardless of their vaccine status.
“We are just so done with this,” said Tootie Smith, chairwoman of the Clackamas County Board of Supervisors and a former Republican Oregon State House Representative. “There’s a huge amount of frustration that people have.”
Smith made national news when she said on Twitter that she would host a large Thanksgiving dinner, despite capacity rules on indoor gatherings in place at the time — and now she says she’s astonished when she travels outside Oregon and sees what it looks like to live with fewer public COVID-19 restrictions.
“Everything was open. People were happy, because they had the freedom to go out to restaurants (without a mask),” said Smith, who cited Florida, South Dakota and Idaho as examples. “Some of the businesses wanted you to wear a mask. And it might have been mandated indoors at certain points -- but the attitude was different. You weren’t shamed for not wearing a mask.”
Those who support the Northwest’s more cautious approach, however, point out the region has had lower infection rates throughout the pandemic — likely because of the stricter rules over the past 14 months.