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Health and Medicine

Gov. Kate Brown To Expand Mask Mandate Throughout Oregon

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a press conference to address the coronavirus pandemic in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 20, 2020.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a press conference to address the coronavirus pandemic in Portland, Ore., Friday, March 20, 2020.

Brown will require Oregonians throughout the state to wear face masks while in indoor public spaces beginning Wednesday.

The order will kick in a week after Brown began requiring masks in indoor public spaces within seven Oregon counties. It comes as new cases of COVID-19 have surged in recent days.

As new cases surge in Oregon, Brown announced Monday she is extending a seven-county face mask requirement that went into effect June 24. The statewide requirements kick in July 1, and will require residents don facial protection at locations like grocery stores, shopping centers, and restaurants and bars while not eating or drinking.

“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 in a statement announcing the requirement. “The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.”

While Oregon’s overall cases of COVID-19 remain low compared to many other states, the number of new cases has risen noticeably of late — with the state notching more than 200 confirmed or presumptive cases in each of the past three days.

While that’s well below the surge in new cases experienced by more populous states, it’s enough for Brown to begin considering pulling back on her decision to begin reopening businesses in all of Oregon’s 36 counties.

“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing,” Brown said in a written statement. “If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public.”

The governor's announcement spurred immediate support from an industry group representing hospitals. 

"With cases on the rise rapidly across the state, it is now more important than ever to take this step to protect our loved ones, our neighbors, and our communities," Becky Hultberg, of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said in a statement. "Further, if we are to coexist alongside the disease, wide adoption of public face coverings is an essential factor in keeping our businesses and public spaces open."

Brown’s initial order on face masks applied to seven counties: Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Marion, Polk, Hood River and Lincoln. But as new cases have mounted throughout the state, some have begun pushing for a more widespread policy.

Over the weekend, the city of Manzanita in Tillamook County  requested that the governor order a mask requirement there. And the state’s grocery lobby has requested that the public wear masks when shopping, regardless of where they live.

In her announcement Monday, Brown acknowledged the upcoming holiday weekend, and the threat it might pose for spread of the virus. 

"Please keep your Fourth of July celebrations small and local," she said. "We saw a lot of new COVID-19 cases following the Memorial Day holiday. Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position."

Brown’s order on face masks was made under the authority of an emergency declaration she made in March. That order is currently set to expire on July 6.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting