PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that Oregonians statewide will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, beginning on Wednesday, July 1.
"We are seeing the growth of the disease at an alarming rate at both rural and urban Oregon and we know that face coverings stop the transmission of the disease," Brown said.
The mandate applies to business owners, employees, and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. The requirement is already in effect in seven counties and was set to take effect in Clatsop County on Wednesday.
“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 in the announcement Monday afternoon. “The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference."
Washington made the move earlier this month, with Gov. Jay Inslee requiring masks in most public settings in the state as of June 26. Inslee's order covers all indoor public spaces as well as any outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.
“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 added.
Gov. Brown said the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration will take the lead, along with other local agencies, in enforcing face covering requirements for all Oregon businesses.
“I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing," Brown said. "If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public."
When asked what Multnomah County leaders, specifically, are doing to enforce the face mask requirement already in place, county spokesperson Kate Willson said they're constantly reminding the public of the need for face coverings, and hoping enforcement from OSHA will help at the business level.
"Right now, we are scaling up contact tracing, responding to outbreaks, standing up testing and we need the public to consistently wear a face covering. And wear it correctly," WIllson said. "People with complaints can call the state’s lead enforcement agency, OSHA. Tying up 911 and the local public safety system with mask calls doesn’t make sense. But we are working at the business level and organization level to make our expectations clear and help people get the supplies they need."
Brown said that Oregon saw an increase in COVID-19 cases following Memorial Day weekend and asked that people keep their Fourth of July celebrations small and local.
"Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position," she 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.”
State officials have said that acceptable face coverings can be made of cloth, paper or disposable material, and can also be bandannas or homemade masks.
Children under the age of 12, as well people with a disability or medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, are exempt from the order.
Following Brown's announcement on Monday, Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems President and CEO Becky Hultberg released the following statement in support of the requirement:
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems stands in support of Governor Kate Brown’s statewide public face covering requirement. We know that when we all make the choice to wear a face covering in public, we are doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 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. 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. OAHHS urges all Oregonians to wear a face covering in public, and to help reinforce this critical message by talking to your friends and family about the importance of wearing a face covering in public.
Interactive map: Oregon COVID-19 cases by county