SALEM, Ore. — Republicans in the Oregon House of Representatives have signed onto a letter urging Governor Kate Brown to drop the state's "vaccine passport" policy, saying that the state should be aligned with mask guidance in Washington and California.
"Unlike Washington and California, Oregon’s response to the announcement from the White House and the CDC puts pressure on businesses and exposes front-line workers to confrontation. Patrons are required to either display proof of vaccination as a passport or continue to wear masks regardless of their vaccine or immunity status. Both options for businesses contradict CDC guidelines," the lawmakers said.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, who penned her own letter critical of the policy last week, was first to sign onto the new letter. Southern Oregon Representatives Kim Wallan, Lily Morgan, E. Werner Reschke, and David Brock Smith also signed their names.
Though the House Republicans say that Oregon should be aligning itself with Washington and California, officials in those two states have carved two very different paths in response to the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people.
California decided to eschew the new CDC guidance until June 15, when Governor Gavin Newsom has said that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted entirely.
Washington, on the other hand, adopted an "honor system" policy, allowing people who claim to be fully vaccinated to stop using masks and distancing where allowed. Businesses are still given the option to keep mask and distancing requirements in place if they prefer.
The policies are similar in that neither state embraced checking proof of vaccination status, while Oregon's policy provides this as an option for businesses and venues. Like Washington, businesses in Oregon can continue to require masks and distancing broadly — the difference being that people are not taken at their word for claiming to be fully vaccinated if the business decides to go that route.
"At the beginning of the pandemic Oregon committed to aligning regulations with Washington and California. We should not become an outlier now. We are reaching the end of the pandemic and should be lifting mandates, not adding new ones," the Republican lawmakers wrote. "We request that you end this vaccine passport/verification system immediately. It is time to place our trust in Oregonians again. They have earned it."
The Oregon Health Authority's guidance was released last Tuesday, and the agency scheduled a briefing for 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday with Oregon OSHA to answer questions about the policy.