The Chevron station in Forest Grove. Photo: Chas Hundley

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This article was originally published by the Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.

Oregon will allow drivers to pump their own gas until April 11 in order to reduce contact that could spread the coronavirus, the state fire marshal announced early Saturday morning.

“During this unprecedented time of state emergency, we need to ensure that critical supply lines for fuels and other basic services remain uninterrupted,” State Fire Marshal Jim Walker said in a press release.

It’s difficult for gas station attendants to maintain the recommended 6-foot distance from other people while taking payment and refueling some vehicles. Some fuel companies already allowed customers to pay for gas using company-specific applications on their smartphones.

The change means countless drivers will be touching fueling and payment equipment at gas stations, so they will need to sanitize or wash their hands after getting gas in order to minimize their chances of contaminating their steering wheels and other things they subsequently touch.

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The fire marshal ordered gas stations to immediately put in place workplace policies to ensure employees follow state public health officials’ social distancing advice. He is requiring stations to keep an attendant on duty “to supervise self-service refueling” and “help mitigate the spring of COVID-19 through sanitization measures ...” COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Stations can only operate without an attendant if “there are no employees available to work” and the station operator must document worker absences as well as employee hiring and retention efforts, the fire marshal’s office said.