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Restaurants Can Let Vaccinated Oregonians Enter Maskless — as Long as Customers Can Prove They’re Vaccinated

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown announced that vaccinated individuals can go mask-free in “most public spaces.” Today, the Oregon Health Authority has clarified what that means for restaurants.

Oregon VA Hospital Administers COVID-19 Vaccine To Staff
A healthcare worker holds a vaccine card at a Portland vaccine site. Restaurant and bar workers can start checking those same record cards to let customers enter mask-free; the question is, will they?
Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Restaurants and bars can start checking vaccination record cards to let customers enter maskless, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA released new guidance for vaccinated Oregonians, which says businesses can lift social distancing and mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers — as long as they can prove their vaccination status before entering the business.

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown announced that fully vaccinated Oregonians could go mask-free in “most public spaces,” with a handful of exceptions: public transportation, schools, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, youth and adult correctional facilities, and long-term care facilities will all still require physical distancing and mask-wearing, even for those who received their COVID-19 vaccine. However, the specifics of how this new policy would be implemented were somewhat vague: The state said that the OHA would soon provide “updated guidance for businesses, employers, and others to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status,” and noted that businesses that did not want to abandon those safety measures could keep stricter mask or physical distancing requirements in place.

Today, the OHA finally published its updated guidance regarding fully vaccinated Oregonians. Customers need to provide proof of vaccination before entering restaurants, bars, and other businesses without a mask, and those businesses need to have an employee review those documents before letting them enter the building. That probably means businesses will need to have someone checking vaccination cards (originals or photo copies) at the door if they plan to forgo that guidance.

Some businesses are planning on keeping their mask requirements in place, however. Mel Archuleta, who owns Bar Carlo in Foster-Powell, isn’t planning on letting customers in the building just yet, let alone allowing customers to go maskless. “I would rather just not even have people inside to avoid dealing with the blowback,” Archuleta says. “I feel like many customers are going to see (vaccine carding) as an invasion of privacy. It puts employees in a position to be some sort of weird enforcer; that doesn’t feel right at all.”

She’s not alone: Many business owners and employees have felt worried about the potential HIPAA violations or confrontations with customers asking for proof of vaccine status. However, not all restaurant owners have decided to keep mask mandates in place: Some businesses began letting customers enter mask-free last week without asking for proof of vaccination. Experts, including state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger, confirmed that asking people to voluntarily provide proof of vaccination status is not a HIPAA violation.

Mask requirements have been in place indoors since July 1, and outdoors since July 13. The Oregon Health Authority is also allowing all Oregonians — regardless of vaccination status — to go mask-free outdoors, though it recommends unvaccinated and immunocompromised Oregonians to wear masks in crowded outdoor spaces. The state’s new policy goes into effect immediately, which means restaurants and bars can begin vaccine carding today.

Oregon adjusts guidelines for wearing masks and physical distancing indoors and outdoors [OHA]
Interim Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals [Official]
As maskless shopping and dining return, businesses are loath to become Oregon’s vaccination police [O]
Is it a HIPAA violation if a business asks for proof of your COVID vaccination? What the experts are saying [O]
Grocery Workers Are Still Dealing with Customer Confrontations Over Masks, More Than a Year Into the Pandemic [EPDX]
Oregon Will Allow Fully Vaccinated Residents to Go Maskless. But Will Restaurants Forgo Their Mask Requirements? [EPDX]