The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) assembled a Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) earlier this week to address a permanent indoor mask mandate in the state. Oregon is one of a few states that still retain one nearly two years into the pandemic.
The committee included several community stakeholders, including representatives from the hospitality industry, the business sector, and faith communities, according to local ABC affiliate KATU.
Dr. Paul Cieslak, the medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations with OHA, explained to KATU that OHA’s potential “permanent” indoor mask mandate is not necessarily permanent because it can be repealed.
“Permanent means indefinite. It doesn’t necessarily mean permanent,” Cieslak said. “We can repeal it as well, but we are only allowed to have a temporary rule for 180 days, and anything that goes beyond 180 days, we cannot extend it.”
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The RAC reportedly met with OHA for approximately two hours.
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The public will be permitted to offer comment when OHA proposes the indoor mask rule formally, the date of which has yet to be announced.
Gov. Kate Brown, D-Ore., reinstated an outdoor mask mandate in the state amid the surge of the delta variant in August. The OHA repealed the outdoor mask mandate in November, but kept it in place indoors.
“We continue to see a concerning pattern of COVID-19 spread throughout the state, with the heaviest concentrations found in counties with lagging vaccination rates,” OHA Director Pat Allen said at the time.
Other health experts, such as Johns Hopkins Professor Marty Makary, have spoken against indefinite mask mandates.
“We may have a baseline rate of COVID cases hovering around where they are now in the Southeast forever,” Makary said in a November interview. “We are entering an endemic phase and the question we need to ask as a society is, do we want a perpetual society with people masked?”
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Makary added: “And the marginal benefit of masking is diminishing as the prevalence declines. Also, in many instances we’re requiring masks of people at the absolute lowest risk and by insisting on throwing the kitchen sink at virus transmission we will have to pay the piper somehow. That may come in the form of a loss of human connection, more increased mental health problems, and in children a series of problems including issues in development and speech development and other downsides.”
Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.