Masks mandatory Wednesday in all indoor public spaces

Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that Oregonians statewide are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, beginning Wednesday, July 1.

The order applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. Face covering requirements were already mandated in eight counties, in the upper Willamette Valley, the Columbia Gorge and along the northern Pacific coast, before Brown made her announcement.

“From the beginning of the reopening process, I have said that reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace, and isolate them,” Brown said. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties. The upcoming July 4 holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference.

“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Brown said. “The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.”

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead, along with other state and local agencies, in enforcing face covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.

The statewide mask requirement comes after continued increases in the spread of COVID-19 since reopening. COVID-19 cases have increased each week for four straight weeks statewide, and it is spreading faster in the community. While large workplace outbreaks have driven increased cases in recent weeks, sporadic cases (those with no clear link to another case) account for a growing percentage of new cases, according to the OHA.

Statewide, the number of cases reported has spiked over the past week, with 1,211 over seven days to total 8,485, though the total number of deaths have not followed a similar rate, totaling 204 on Monday, an increase of 12 over the past week. Nearly all of those victims have been people over 70, with underlying medical conditions.

Until two weeks ago, the state had never reported more than 200 new known cases in a day. Since June 16, it has reported five such days.

In Linn County, however, as of Monday the total number of reported cases since counting began in the spring was 140, up 11 from the previous week. Nine people have died of the virus in the county, none since mid-May.

“Oregonians have all made incredible sacrifices over the last several months that have saved thousands of lives,” Brown said. “The actions we take now can protect our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and fellow Oregonians from this disease, and prevent the need for another statewide shutdown. We are truly all in this together.”