Oregonians will need to wear masks in all indoor public spaces starting Friday, including restaurants and bars. In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state will reintroduce its mask mandate starting August 13, keeping it in place for the foreseeable future.
In a Tuesday press release, Brown teased that the state’s COVID-19-related mask mandate would return, as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise across the state related to the highly contagious delta variant. Recent projections from Oregon Health & Sciences University suggest Oregon will surpass its hospital bed capacity by September, and the state broke its all-time record for both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations yesterday, even considering the nearly 73 percent of Oregon adults who are vaccinated. While the percentage of COVID-19 cases in vaccinated Oregonians has risen, the percentage of vaccinated Oregonians with COVID-19 remains extremely small compared to cases in unvaccinated Oregonians.
The governor’s decision is not only meant to prevent further deaths and hospitalizations; Brown hopes that the new mask mandate will prevent more restrictions on businesses and schools, especially in terms of dining room shutdowns. “Masks are our best bet at keeping our schools and businesses open,” Brown said in today’s press conference.
Brown says the state will enforce the mask requirements using the same tools it used in the past, which includes Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration; this is bad news for food service workers, who carried much of the burden of enforcing mask mandates within businesses, despite the volatile behavior of mask-resistant customers.
Even without the state’s new mandate, Portland diners would have needed to start wearing masks again Friday: On Monday, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced that the county would reintroduce its mask mandate starting August 13. At the time, Brown defended her decision to let counties choose their own COVID-19 safety restrictions. “From the beginning of this pandemic, city and county leaders have asked me for local control and the ability to make local public health decisions when it comes to COVID-19,” she said in a statement. “I’d like to thank Chair Kafoury and Multnomah County leaders for taking bold action to slow the spread of the Delta variant in our communities.” She also said she was “calling on local leaders to take action now to institute mask requirements.” The next day, the governor’s office announced its decision to mandate masks statewide.
This story will be updated with more information.
• Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Will Announce New Statewide Mask Requirements Tomorrow [EPDX]
• Multnomah County Will Require Masks in All Restaurants and Bars Starting August 13 [EPDX]
• How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Portland Restaurant World [EPDX]