Masks are back, but this time it's a bit different
Here we go, again?
Hopefully, people didn't get too comfortable with the whole mask-free idea because it looks like face covering might make a comeback, thanks to the emergence of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus. Case numbers are climbing again throughout Oregon and nationwide as the more contagious form of the virus spreads.
So far, statewide mask requirements have only returned for state offices and for public schools. At all other indoor venues, they are recommended but not required. But as the case numbers climb, it's hard not to anticipate the return of all the restrictions that businesses and other public venues faced for the past year and a half. After all, the last time numbers got this high, we not only dealt with mask requirements but business closures and gathering limits.
It's dizzying and frustrating â€“ about a month ago, state leaders celebrated the removal of statewide restrictions and patted citizens on the back for reaching the 70% vaccination threshold, and now the cow is seemingly getting walked back into the barn.
Here we go, again? Perhaps not.
Yes, this all looks familiar, but the situation is not exactly the same. The biggest clear difference between now and the recent past is people have a vaccine to combat COVID. What's more, 70% of Oregonians have been given at least one dose of it. The other major difference â€“ at least so far â€“ is that masks are the only requirement the public is facing, and only in two settings. No social distancing mandates have been announced, nor have any gathering limits or business restrictions and/or closures. Also noteworthy, particularly as summer events continue and fall sports season looms, no requirements or even recommendations have extended to outdoor venues.
What also sets the present situation apart is that the individual counites, not the state, are charged with responding to COVID activity in a community. Hopefully, that will not change â€“ communities should have the latitude to respond to their own unique situations.
The recent statewide mask mandates for public schools gives reason to doubt, but if local control remains, residents should be willing to follow whatever health recommendations the county chooses. If community health and government leaders at any point say it's time to mask up, we should do it â€“ based on Crook County's past pushback against state mandates, it would be safe to assume the decision wasn't made lightly.
Hopefully, this recent COVID surge and emergence of the delta variant is short lived, and any associated recommendations can soon get lifted. The last thing any of us want to say is, "Here we go again."
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