Conservative group threatens to sue over Oregon's new mask rules

The Oregon Health Authority announced the mandate May 18.

Posted: May 27, 2021 8:11 AM
Updated: May 27, 2021 12:52 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. — There is a new call for Oregon's governor to end the state's mandate requiring proof of vaccination for people to enter a business without a mask on.

The Oregon Health Authority announced the mandate May 18 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened mask requirements for people who are fully vaccinated.

A conservative group called Freedom Foundation, which supports limited government, sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown demanding that she lift the vaccine status check requirement. The letter also came with the threat of a lawsuit.

“The message is very clear, she needs to rescind the order immediately,” said Jason Dudash, director of the Freedom Foundation in Oregon.

He argues that requiring vaccine verification of people entering businesses and other venues, including churches, without a mask is unconstitutional and unnecessary.

“Why not say this is a mistake, we apologize and we do trust that Oregonians who have all made immense sacrifices over the past year to get us to this point are not going to stop until we get over the finish line. And there is no need for this regressive policymaking,” suggested Dudash.

Oregon's House Republicans are also calling on Brown to change course.

"My constituents really want the governor to allow the honor system," said Rep. Christine Drazen (R-Canby), who is House Republican Leader.

She signed the letter her side sent the governor on Tuesday, taking issue with requiring proof of vaccination.

”And that is counter to White House recommendations, counter to what ACLU is recommending, counter to the CDC. It's not in line with Washington or California. We're really going our own way on this one and we really shouldn't,” said Drazan.

KGW has found many businesses aren't following Oregon's rules anyway. That includes some heavy hitters like Costco and Walmart.

KGW talked to Brown about this on Monday, asking if there were penalties for not following the mandate.

"Well certainly Oregon OSHA has the ability to enforce the law but right now I think we should be focused on getting our vaccination rates,” said Brown.

Oregon OSHA told KGW on Wednesday that they've not issued any citations or fines yet.

But it doesn't sound like Brown is backing down on the mandate itself.

The governor’s deputy press secretary Charles Boyle issued a statement Wednesday which said in part, “Oregon's guidance was meant to give businesses options in reacting to the CDC's announcement, and to give them a choice between implementing new verification procedures, or keeping their current health and safety measures in place. The majority of businesses are choosing to continue requiring masks."

Brown has talked about refining the state's approach. Those who oppose the policy want something more to be done, and that includes Dudash.

“We're going to hopefully give her a week," he said. "I think that it's very likely that she will rescind this mandate. She's entirely alone.”

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