As our industry counterparts in areas of California react to reinstated restrictions on indoor tasting room service, Oregon winery owners need to be aware of some less intrusive but important recent announcements here.
First, Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) this week restricted social gatherings to groups of 10 or fewer. Note that the statewide rule specifies social events, even those outdoors, and it does not apply to normal operations at Oregon businesses. While restaurants, wine tasting rooms, bars and brewpubs are not judged by our state’s epidemiology experts to be playing significant roles right now in the rising level of positive COVID-19 test results, we are all being asked to continue exercising good judgment.
Second, masks are still required, of course, when winery staff members and visitors are indoors. Tasting room guests may remove them when eating or drinking. What’s new is this week’s rule calling for masks to be worn outdoors when six feet of spacing is not possible, along with encouragement to mask up even when properly distanced.
This OHA guidance regarding masks was forwarded by Evyan Andries, government affairs advisor for the Oregon Wine Council. It was issued before the new “outdoor requirement” was put in place. Nevertheless, it includes a number of important points. See page 2 for an answer about exemptions and page 10 for information about enforcement actions within OHA and county health department spans of authority. Finally, feel free to display this graphic as a simple reminder about masks for everyone.
As you may be aware, industry volunteers including Anthony King and Leigh Bartholomew have been working with field operations management at the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and industrial hygiene experts from Oregon’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to craft recommended operating guidelines designed to keep vineyard workers and winery employees safe during the coming grape harvest and crush. The guidelines will start to circulate for industry member comments in the next few days and Anthony is still welcoming volunteers if you want to assist in the drafting and review processes.
During a recent industry meeting, Anthony and Leigh reported findings from a winery walk-through conducted last week with ODA and OSHA. The exercise was structured to identify areas where special precautions will be advised during the harvest/crush period to minimize exposure risks. Some of the lessons learned reinforced the importance of maximizing airflow and CO2 reduction to the extent possible in closed production spaces and improvising barriers (e.g., shower curtains) as needed where six-foot spacing is unlikely, such as around sorting tables. Additional learning from that exercise will be folded into the draft guidelines. ODA and OSHA are available to assist with similar worksite safety audits for free in other wineries and vineyards around the state. OWB can connect you with the right people if you let us know you’re interested.
A final comment from Rusty Rock (ODA), echoed by both Jennifer Ekdahl and Nate Sweet at OSHA, relates to their willingness to work cooperatively with grape growers and winemakers in coping with the unusual and unexpected circumstances that will present themselves this year. Inviting ODA or OSHA staff to your place of business now for a free safety consultation can be an effective way to anticipate and mitigate risks before the grapes arrive at the pad.
Oregon Wine Board
P.S. If you thought you missed out on your chance for a Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan, you didn’t. Not yet. With about $140 billion left to disburse, the program application deadline was extended to Saturday, August 8. Look in the OWB’s COVID-19 toolkit for the latest information on program modifications as well as for the application form itself.