Governor's new mask mandate a push to 'protect those around you'
Gov. Kate Brown has announced details of Oregon's reinstatement of masks required for indoor public spaces as of Friday, Aug. 13.
Brown appeared virtually Wednesday, Aug. 11, with Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, to explain her reasons for reinstatement of the requirement, which had lapsed June 30 along with other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
A surge in the number of COVID-19 infections from the Delta variant and a projection of cases exceeding hospital capacity have prompted the reinstatement of mask requirements. Brown had already reinstated requirements on July 30 for employees and visitors in most state buildings, and for students, teachers and staff as public schools open.
Brown said the previous day she would reinstate the mask requirement as she announced she would require most state workers to get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or whenever final federal approval is granted for any of the three vaccines that have emergency use authorization.
"We are all in this together," Brown said. "I am asking Oregonians to take this simple step" to stem the tide of infections and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
"Masks are our best bet for keeping our schools and our businesses open."
According to projections by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health & Science University, Brown said that without new interventions, "COVID-19 hospitalizations will completely overwhelm doctors and nurses in the coming weeks. We could be as many as 500 staffed hospital beds short of what we need to treat patients by September."
Brown said such a shortage would leave no room for hospitals to treat patients for any cause.
"When hospitals run out of beds, we are all at risk," she said.
Multnomah County issued its own mask mandate for indoor spaces back on Monday. It is scheduled to start on Friday, when the state mandate will take effect.
Brown said she is taking no stand at the moment on the potential of reintroducing capacity limits for indoor venues or putting off major outdoor events, such as the Oregon State Fair, Pendleton Round-Up, or Oregon and Oregon State football games.
Vaccinations are still the preferred alternative by Brown and state officials. Sidelinger displayed a chart that indicates counties with at least 60% fully vaccinated people face less severe effects from the resurgent virus than other counties. (Only seven of Oregon's 36 counties are in this category, although Multnomah, Washington and Hood River are among them. Clackamas County is close at 58%. Others are Baker, Benton, Deschutes and Lincoln.)
Brown said she ending up intervening after counties, which are responsible for public health, did not intervene once the Delta variant became widespread. The variant averages slightly more than six people infected per person, compared with two from a person infected with the original virus. OHA's Allen said warnings from officials about what might happen have had less effect on the public over the course of the pandemic than what actually happens. The surge of infections has driven up vaccination rates in some counties.
Below is a document from the governor's office listing details of the governor's reinstatement:
Goal of indoor mask requirement is to limit the spread of the Delta variant as much as
possible indoors, where COVID-19 spreads more easily. The requirement works in
combination with efforts to encourage more Oregonians to become fully vaccinated.
• The emphasis of indoor mask requirement is on personal responsibility â€“â€“ we are asking Oregonians to make a commitment to protect those around you by wearing a mask. We are also asking Oregonians to be kind and considerate of others and to treat store employees and others with respect: They are asking you to wear a mask to save lives.
• Applies to adults and children older than 5. On public transit, also includes children older
than 2. This aligns with Multnomah County mask requirements.
• Applies broadly to people in all indoor public spaces. (Masks are still strongly
encouraged in crowded outdoor situations.)
• Common sense exemptions apply for activities that would be impractical or impossible
wearing a mask, for example: eating and drinking; swimming and organized, competitive
sports; performances involving singing or speaking in public.
• In these cases, OHA recommends strongly that participants be fully vaccinated if
• Similar to exemptions in recently-adopted mask requirements in Nevada,
Louisiana, and Washington, DC.
• Oregon OSHA will have a role in enforcement for employers and employees, with an
education-first approach: OSHA will work with employers who are making an effort to
comply and won't conduct inspections or issue fines immediately as businesses
implement masking protocols, including the necessary signage.
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