Bend Business Update: Mask Guidance, City Operations Changes & Vaccine Access

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Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Deschutes County and across the country, this has prompted some of you to reach out asking if new guidelines from the State are forthcoming. At this point, state governments nationwide have largely declined to close businesses or limit capacity and I don’t have any insight on if that’s an option the Governor is considering.

On Wednesday, the Bend City Council heard an update from Dr. George Conway with the Deschutes County Health Department detailing trends in Central Oregon. You can view that presentation and discussion here.

The pandemic continues to leave each of us dealing with uncertainty; here’s where things stand right now:

Current Mask Guidance
As of July 27, the Oregon Health Authority is recommending a return to universal mask wearing for all indoor public settings, in line with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. This isn’t a requirement, but as a business owner you’re free to implement this for customers and employees based on state guidance.

If you need masks for your employees or customers, please hit reply to this message. I’ll work with you to find a time to meet you next week at City Hall to provide disposable masks at no cost.

If your business is in the healthcare sector, you may be subject to a requirement announced by Governor Brown this week. Beginning September 30th, healthcare workers in Oregon will be required to either provide proof of vaccination or be subject to regular testing. The complete details on this requirement have yet to be released, but you can view media coverage of that announcement here. Expect an update from me on this once more information is available.

City Operations
In line with the State guidance, the City of Bend is strongly recommending mask wearing inside City facilities. City buildings that are currently open to the public, like City Hall, will remain open. In-person and hybrid public meetings will return to remote settings but limited in-person services will continue. If you do need to meet with someone at the permit center or utility billing office, please wear a mask.

Vaccine Access
Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself from COVID. If you or your employees are seeking a vaccine they remain available at no charge throughout Central Oregon. You can find a list of available outlets at centraloregoncovidvaccine.com.

As a business owner, you may be eligible to claim refundable tax credits for the cost of paid sick or family leave for your employees due to COVID-19. This program includes any paid leave taken to receive or recover from the vaccine.

I know the last thing you want to be dealing with right now is the pandemic amidst a labor shortage, a busy summer season, and trying to return to normalcy. The good news: in some areas with relatively high vaccination rates, the surge in infections related to the Delta variant has been shorter lived than past infection peaks.

If you’re on the fence, please get vaccinated. Here’s hoping my next newsletter is focused on construction impacts, permit turnaround times, and other business as usual updates.

Ben Hemson
Business Advocate
City of Bend
541-323-7151
bhemson@bendoregon.gov
@BendBizAdvocate

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