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Back to Normal, With Extra Steps 

Gov. Kate Brown announced the end of mask mandates for vaccinated people, leaving businesses unsure of what to do

On May 18, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown released interim guidance on mask enforcement after previously announcing that mask mandates would be dropped for vaccinated individuals.
Though at the time, some hoped this would be a return to normal, many business owners were anxious about following and enforcing these new rules. The Source Weekly reached out to over a dozen local businesses in Bend to gauge how much they’re changing under the new guidelines. The results showed a sharp divide depending on the type of business.

Vendors who sell goods were more likely to avoid the new rules altogether in favor of waiting to see when they could lift their mask policies without having to check vaccination status.  Our primary goal is to provide our customers with the very best customer experience for their custom picture framing and digital service’s needs. It’s not about requiring proof of vaccination,” said Todd Dow, Operations Manager at High Desert Frameworks.

Dow said they have had no complaints from customers about the mask requirements since the new rules were announced, and that it is business as usual at the store. But they’re troubled specifically with how they are expected to enforce the new mandate. 

“It is unfortunate that the State has taken the approach of placing the business in a position to be an enforcer.  Until the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon OSHA [Occupational Health and Safety Administration] provide more guidance, clarity to the mask mandate or change the mandates, we request all customers, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside our store and while interacting with our staff,” Dow said.



click to enlarge Caption: “Stay Open Bend!” sign on the corner of NW Franklin Ave. and NW Wall St. in downtown Bend. - ASHLEY MORENO
  • Ashley Moreno
  • Caption: “Stay Open Bend!” sign on the corner of NW Franklin Ave. and NW Wall St. in downtown Bend.
Elixir Wine Group Owner and CEO Kirk Ermisch said he was interested in lifting mask requirements as soon as possible. He expressed interest in using signs to enforce the required vaccination check, but only if legal. Oregon Health Authority guidelines require directly checking status through a vaccination card, so it’s unlikely it would be adequate under current state guidance. 

“If it is legal and we won’t get into trouble I will lift all mask requirements immediately. We are vaccinated,” Ermisch wrote in an email to the Source.  


Gyms/Fitness

Gyms that rely on membership have an easier way to track vaccination status, and typically won’t have to check every time someone enters.  

“Masks are required except if students show their vaccine card. If they do, they can go maskless and put their yoga mat closer to other vaccinated students than our measured, distanced spaces,” said Suzie Newcome, Namaspa Yoga founder and co-owner.  

Namaspa is recording vaccination status in their online check-in system. 

“We devised a way in our online system to record that we have verified someone's vaccine status, if they want us to do that, and that way we don't have to ask each time,” Newcome said. “I feel this is the most inclusive way to go—everyone is welcome to come practice and all of our teachers can teach regardless of vaccine process, history or beliefs.”

click to enlarge A sign at Astro Lounge in Downtown Bend informs customers that they will allow non-masked patrons after they show proof of vaccination - JACK HARVEL
  • Jack Harvel
  • A sign at Astro Lounge in Downtown Bend informs customers that they will allow non-masked patrons after they show proof of vaccination
Other gyms and studios are following similar policies, with a relatively easy transfer to the new guidelines. 

“We are keeping a note in their file of who and when their vaccination status was checked,” Emily Aygun, owner of Altius Pole Studio, said. “We still require social distancing at our studio, however our poles are over 6 feet apart from each other anyways so this is easy for us to accomplish.” 

Restaurants and bars

Restaurants have been the only indoor business that allows limited masklessness in Oregon during the pandemic, and switching to a new system may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

“We are still requiring all customers and employees to wear masks regardless of vaccination status,” Emily, assistant manager of Noi Thai Cuisine, wrote via email. 

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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