Governor announces mask-wearing mandate

By SARA CLINE (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced a statewide indoor mask requirement in Oregon as coronavirus hospitalizations and cases reach record high numbers in the state and health care systems are overwhelmed.

Beginning Friday, everyone who is 5 years or older in Oregon — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Brown had urged local officials to implement their own mandates, but almost none did.

The newest coronavirus health and safety measure in Oregon applies to all indoor public spaces, including businesses, grocery stores, indoor entertainment venues and gyms. In addition, people older than two years old will be required to wear masks on public transit.

There are some mask exemptions for activities, including eating, drinking, swimming and organized sports.

The mask mandate comes as the state on Wednesday set a second consecutive record of hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 665 people. The previous record of 622 people hospitalized was set during November’s surge, when vaccine doses were not yet available.

Intensive care unit beds across the state are about 90% full, and some hospital regions have less than five ICU beds available, Brown said.

“When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care –– whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision, or a variety of other emergency situations,” Brown said.

The Pacific Northwest state is not alone. In Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana, COVID-19 is clobbering health systems with more people hospitalized with the virus than at any other point in the pandemic — straining and overwhelming the already limited staff.

Health officials in Oregon warned that, without new health and safety interventions in place, coronavirus hospitalizations would far exceed Oregon’s health system capacity in the next several weeks.

Brown described health the latest projections as a stark reminder that “the pandemic is far from over” and a “disappointing reminder that we still have dark days ahead.”

“The latest science is clear that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are able to spread the delta variant,” Brown said. “Masks are simple, and they are effective.”


Oregon is the third state — joining Hawaii and Louisiana — to require vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks inside public spaces statewide. The mandates emerge amid a surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S., driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Some states are going beyond mask measures, requiring health care workers and state employees to be vaccinated. On Wednesday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would become the first state in the nation to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

In addition, local officials in several Republican-led states that banned mask mandates earlier in the pandemic — including Arizona and Florida — are now defying their state’s prohibitions as school districts require masks ahead of students returning to school.

Throughout the pandemic, health officials have described Oregon as a success story as it has had some of the lowest coronavirus case and death rates nationally – largely in part because of the state’s strict restrictions, which were lifted at the end of June.

As the delta variant began rapidly spreading across the state last month, Brown turned to county officials — giving them local control on whether or not to implement mask mandates.

“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,” Brown said.

Earlier this month, the governor announced that masks would be required in K-12 schools and in any indoor state agency building. In addition the state health authority made a statewide recommendation that people, vaccinated or not, wear masks while in indoor public spaces, but again stopped short of reinstating an indoor mask mandate.

As coronavirus cases spiked, there continued to be inaction by nearly all of the state’s counties. A few counties issued mask mandates for county agency buildings. However only one county — Multnomah — announced a mask requirement for all public indoor spaces.

The Associated Press reached out to each Oregon’s 36 counties this month to ask about plans to implement mask mandates. Out of the 16 counties that responded, nearly all indicated that they were concerned about the rise in coronavirus cases but only one had issued an indoor mask mandate and most gave a resounding “No” when asked if they had plans to issue one.

“At this point, those who are most likely to adhere to a mask mandate are already vaccinated, so I’m not convinced new mandates will be all that effective in containing the Delta variant,” Gilliam County Judge Elizabeth Farrar Campbell said.

While county officials said they felt the decision to implement mask requirements should be a local decision, health officials urged the governor to issue a statewide mandate as hospitals became overwhelmed with an influx of COVID-19 patients.

“OHSU believes the entire state should be masking,” Renee Edwards, the chief medical officer at Oregon Health & Science University, said Monday. “I recognize this is being decided at a local level, but every community’s actions will lead to consequences at a state and even a global level.”


In a final call to action, Brown met with county leaders and elected officials last week and urged them to institute mask requirements. The reimplementation of the mask mandate is occurring 44 days after the state lifted restrictions.

“The latest science is clear: although unvaccinated individuals are more likely to contract the disease, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the Delta variant,” Brown said. “Masks are a simple and effective way to make sure you are not unknowingly infecting your friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues.”



So, let me get this straight. We are being forced to wear virus-permeable face diapers in order to ensure that we don't give others a virus that we don't have because we're vaccinated. Right.


Rotwang, how have you not yet heard that vaccinated people are fully capable of carrying, passing on, and even becoming sick with the Delta variant? Vaccination prevents serious illness, hospitalization, and death in otherwise healthy people. You not wearing a mask can still kill others. Wearing a mask helps prevent the spread by stopping your virus-infested spittle from flying everywhere. The fact is that we wouldn't be dealing with this now if people had just worn their masks in the beginning and gotten vaccinated as soon as they qualified. Letting it spread and mutate for almost two years may yet kill us all.


Rotwang, you continual examples of total ignorance would be laughable if it didn’t come with deadly consequences. Why don’t you just sit in your house until you get it sold and can get away from this area you so despise?


Troll alert!.....


TWo thumbs up bonnybedlam. I agree with you statement.


Rotwang IS the problem. The war on intelligence taking place in this country right now is... stupid.

Joel R

Be careful Rotwang, their are always people around who don't want you to have an opinion that's different than theirs. And should you voice such an opinion they will jump all over you for it in an attempt to silence you. Don't be silenced. We need ALL opinions.

Joel R

One of the lefts favorite tropes is that those who see things differently than them are just plain stupid. They hurled that at Ronald Reagan all the time (what else could they possibly hurl at a man who governed so successfully and was so beloved?). They can't conceive that THEY might be in the wrong or that the truth on an issue might be a nuanced blending of both theirs and your perspectives.


Joel- The truth of the matter is that even vaccinated people can carry the virus and pass it along....therefore masks are a simple means to limit the spread. False claims not supported by fact should not be mistaken for opinion...

Don Dix

BeTheMatch -- the 'war on intelligence' is in full flower right here in Oregon -- as of last week (signed into law by Brown), state requirements for HS graduation no longer include proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic for the next 3 years. Imagine a society where HS graduates can't comprehend, express thoughts, or be comfortable with the numbers. How does one learn anything without those basics?


Not sure what you mean by a “war on intelligence “.....nearly all kids are offered the opportunity to learn and improve their academic skills through public schools....Clearly they can‘t be forced to learn!....I suppose flunking students is an option, but it doesn’t really change the reality that US society is dumber than we would like to admit.....self improvement and education is an individual choice that takes some effort and some support from adults...

Don Dix

tagup -- that term did not originate with me -- however, it would be difficult to align Oregon's new guidelines for graduation requirements with increasing 'intelligence' in any form.


do you think changing graduation guidelines will make any difference in how teaching is conducted?...I don’t.....in my experience basic skills in math reading & writing are learned before high school anyway....

Don Dix

First of all, teaching to a lower standard will change the curriculum -- less emphasis on one aspect creates room to teach something else -- whatever that may be?

In a world of aggressive competition, one with only basic skills will be at a big disadvantage.

There a several 'graduates' I have known over the years that couldn't even pass the written test to get into the service. When it's tougher to get in the army than graduate HS, something is terribly wrong, IMO.

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