Oregon Reopens

Some local businesses may still require pandemic-related policies, such as face coverings and social distancing due to concerns about the COVID-19 variants.

Signs Down

The pandemic related signs limiting public access to St. Helens City Hall have been removed as of Wednesday, June 30, following the Governor Brown's executive order allowing the state to reopen.

As Gov. Kate Brown's executive order reopening the state's economy takes effect today, The Chronicle is reaching out to local businesses and others to see if it is full steam ahead, or if they are continuing COVID-19 health and safety policies.

Signs detailing the restrictions and limiting public access have been removed at several public locations, such as St. Helens City Hall and the Columbia County Courthouse.

The city of St. Helens Communication Director Crystal King said the city is resuming normal operations.

"In keeping with Governor Brown’s latest recovery order, St. Helens City Hall is now open to the public for regular business hours," King said. "Lifting the local state of emergency will be on the next St. Helens City Council agenda for review."

Fred Meyer store Director of Corporate Affairs Jeffery Temple the store's top priority is the health and safety of our customers and associates.

"In response to local mask mandate changes, fully vaccinated customers and associates no longer need to wear a mask in our Oregon and Washington stores starting June 30," Temple said. "Non-vaccinated associates will be required to wear a mask. We request that non-vaccinated customers continue to wear a mask. We will continue to respect the choice of individuals who prefer to continue to wear a mask. We will continue to follow all state and local ordinances."

Temple said Fred Meyer will not be checking customer vaccination status.

Fred Meyer operates a store in Scappoose just off Highway 30.

Dutch Brothers Coffee, which operators kiosks in St. Helens and Scappoose, is on stand-by according to representative Hillary Brown.

"As a company, we follow all state and local guidelines," she said."While the state has lifted COVID-19 restrictions, we'll wait to roll back ours until the county agrees it's safe to do so. Once that happens, we'll follow best practices as established by the industry."

According to a representative at the Snoopeeland Child Development, a St. Helens daycare center, decisions to resume normalcy are based on who is vaccinated.

"We’re allowing employees and parents to be able to come without a mask, if they have been immunized and can show proof," the representative said. "Parents can decide if they want their cold to continue wearing a mask, if they are kindergarten and older"

According to the representative, Snoopeeland Child Development never closed during the pandemic. The operators had applied for and were approved as an emergency daycare. The representative said the facility was initially open to first line responders, such as medical staff, police and fire, and the workers and children stayed in stable groups and cohorts, similar to what schools have done.

"I’m just kind of taking it by ear," Dianna's Formal Affair in St. Helens owner Dianna Holmes said. "If you want to wear a mask you can, otherwise you don't have to."

Holmes said she will continue to wear a mask, and she noted that other people often will wear a mask, if they see one person wearing one.

"At this point, when someone comes in to be measured [for a tuxedo], both people have to wear a mask," she said.

Holmes said she hasn't yet decide what will be the business policy will be going forward.

"I'm not sure what I’m going to do, probably continue with that (the former policy of wearing masks), at least for myself," she said. "I’m basically just going to leave it to what people feel like doing when they come in — other than tuxedo measuring; that’s my only concern."

In Rainier, City Administrator Scott Jorgensen said the Rainier City Hall re-opened to the public several weeks ago, on March 1.

Rainier Reopens

Cities across Columbia County, such as Rainier, are reopen public offices following Governor Brown's order lifting most restrictions as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That was due to the county’s risk level being lowered at that point from Extreme to High," Jorgensen said. "Also, the city had received COVID-related grant funding to pay for a touchless entry system and safety and security enhancements to limit any potential exposure for employees and the public. Those improvements were completed in late February, so we felt it was appropriate to re-open and that it could be done safely at that time."

Jorgensen said the city council meetings were held via Zoom for a few months, but the city resumed traditional in-person meetings around in late spring, with social distancing and masks being worn by all.

"It's always been the city’s policy to adhere to the public health guidelines put forth by state regulators," he said. "The widespread distribution of the vaccine and the wearing of masks gave those regulators enough confidence to move forward with lifting restrictions.

Jorgensen said city employees are welcome to continue wearing face coverings if they wish, but the city has not imposed any restrictions beyond what state officials implemented. If the state is no longer requiring masks to be worn, Jorgensen said the city will not be requiring its employees to do so.

"The public has endured much discomfort and inconvenience over the last year for the sake of limiting the spread of the virus," he said. "Business owners have been strained by capacity limits and other restrictions on their operations, employees were put out of work and most gatherings were prohibited. We’re pleased that our businesses will be able to serve their customers and that workers can return to their jobs. The vitality of our small businesses is critical to the city. We stood with them during this difficult time and applaud their patience in adhering to the state’s public health guidelines."

Jordensen said the popular city celebration, Rainier Days is scheduled for July 9-11 and the city welcomes the opportunity to have residents and visitors to the community enjoy that annual event.

Rainier, like other cities in the state declared a State of Emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across Oregon in March 2020. Jorgensen said as of June 30, that declaration remained in place.

"The emergency declaration is certainly something that the council can look into at its July 12 meeting," he said. "The agenda isn’t yet finalized, but will be early next week."

At the Rainier Grocery Outlet, owner James Day said the store will keep protective screens around cashier stations as a continued health an safety measure.

"Customers and staff don't have to wear masks or social distance," Day said.

Columbia County

Columbia County officials posted the following statement on the county's Facebook page on Wednesday.

"Last week, Governor Kate Brown signed a recovery-focused executive order lifting all remaining COVID-19 health and safety restrictions issued under Oregon's emergency statutes by June 30. In alignment with the State, Columbia County will also be lifting its requirements for County employees and the public concerning wearing masks, social distancing, and limited capacity in County facilities.

These lifted restrictions do not apply to specialized settings like healthcare, public transportation, correctional facilities and certain other congregate settings where enhanced COVID-19 precautions will remain necessary.

Today, the Board of Columbia County Commissioners orders as follows:

1. All County buildings which were closed to the public shall re-open to the public.

2. Order No. 84-2020, “In the Matter of Adopting a Temporary Policy to Close County Facilities to the Public in Response to COVID-19” is hereby repealed.

3. All County departments with public-facing functions shall continue to implement procedures for setting and managing service by phone, on-line, or by appointment, when necessary.

4. CC Rider and the Columbia County Jail shall continue to comply with all Federal and State guidance related to public transportation and congregate care facilities."

OSHA removes restrictions

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today removed the facial covering and physical distancing requirements of its COVID-19 rule for all workplaces, with certain exceptions, including health care, public transit, and airports.

The move by the division is part of a formal process involving initial amendments to the existing requirements of its COVID-19 rule for all workplaces. It also encompasses similar changes that will be made to another COVID-19 rule addressing housing provided by employers, including as part of agricultural operations.

The lifting of the facial covering and distancing requirements – effective immediately – are consistent with previous public announcements about the reopening of Oregon, including by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.

However, that does not mean that all of Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 requirements are going away immediately, agency officials said. For the rule addressing all workplaces, examples of measures that will remain in place longer include optimization of ventilation, notification of a positive case in the workplace, and proper steps to take if an employee must quarantine.

While the facial covering and distancing provisions are removed from the rule addressing employer-provided housing, the rule’s measures - including placement of beds and air purifiers - remain in place.

Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA continues to meet on a regular basis with stakeholders about the eventual full repeal of the requirements.

Indeed, the fact that Oregon OSHA has lifted – and will no longer enforce – the basic facial covering and distancing parts of its requirements does not mean that the risks of COVID-19 are gone.

“It is heartening to see that we have come so far and are experiencing an improving situation,” Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said. “But the risks remain real – especially for those who are not fully vaccinated. That is why, from a risk management standpoint, it makes sense to keep some provisions of our workplace requirements in place longer.”

Wood added, “We need to remain vigilant and encourage more people to get vaccinated.”

To put these changes into effect, documents have been filed for the general workplace rule. The documents are available here:

https://osha.oregon.gov/OSHARules/adopted/2021/ao4-2021-letter-cov19-allworkplaces.pdf

The amendment to the employer-provided housing rules are in the process of being filed and will soon be available on the website here:

https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/making/Pages/adopted.aspx

The changes implemented by Oregon OSHA do not preclude businesses from choosing to put their own facial covering and distancing measures in place, as long as they do so according to public health guidelines and keeping in mind accommodations for people with disabilities.

Oregon OSHA extended its requirements for all workplaces, which took effect May 4, to maintain risk-reducing safety measures for workers against the coronavirus. The requirements were developed – and, in several cases, adjusted – based on extensive public input, comments, and technical and stakeholder review.

When it extended the requirements, Oregon OSHA committed to an ongoing process to eventually repeal the rules in their entirety when they are no longer needed to address the pandemic in the workplace.

As part of that process, Oregon OSHA continues to consult with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority, the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders.

Learn more about Oregon OSHA’s free resources – involving no fault, no citations, and no penalties – by contacting our consultation services and technical experts.

Learn more about Oregon OSHA’s workplace guidance and resources related to COVID-19: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/re/covid-19.aspx

Governor Kate Brown today thanked Oregonians for their dedication and service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at a reopening celebration at Providence Park in Portland.

The event commemorated the lifting of all remaining COVID-19 health and safety restrictions in Oregon, effective at 12:01 a.m. today. Attendees of the celebration included health care workers, frontline employees, personnel from state agencies critical to COVID-19 response, state and county leaders, Tribal leaders, Oregon National Guard members, housing advocates, farmworkers, educators, and nonprofit volunteers.

“Today, we celebrate Oregon’s strength, resilience, and collaboration,” Brown said. “We celebrate brighter days ahead. And, today we celebrate that Oregon is 100% open for business.

“I look forward to seeing Oregon’s restaurants and mainstreet businesses flourish as vibrant community cornerstones. We are all excited to celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend with family and friends. And I smile at the thought of our children going back to the classroom, five days a week this fall.

“This is truly a historic moment for our state. However, while we enter a new chapter today, our work is far from over.

“We will be relentless in our efforts to finish the job, closing our equity gaps, and reaching every Oregonian with information and vaccines. That means we need to continue this education effort, person to person, neighbor to neighbor. We remain fiercely committed in our efforts to build a more just and equitable, and a safer and stronger Oregon.

“Thank you, Oregon, for everything you’ve done to look out for one another and bring us to this day.”

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek credited Oregonians for making efforts to slow the pandemic.

"I want to give credit to every Oregonian who has made sacrifices over the last 15+ months to stop the spread and keep each other safe," Kotek said inn her weekly newsletter. "This includes getting vaccinated! None of this would have been possible without our collective efforts to vaccinate over 2.3 million Oregonians."

Kotek also stressed that the pandemic is not over.

"The lifting of the remaining restrictions does not mean the pandemic is completely behind us. Thousands of Oregonians have died or gotten seriously ill, and that will take time to heal. There are still some people getting sick and dying. Of those dying from COVID-19 now, hospitals are saying 98% of them are not vaccinated. As of today, we are just over 16,000 adult Oregonians away from crossing the 70% vaccination rate threshold. We must keep the public health effort going!"

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