Brown announces new group-size limits; outdoor mask mandate

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Gov. Kate Brown on Monday announced new restrictions on indoor public gatherings following a continued spike in COVID cases, sounding an alarm for immediate action to avoid future, harsher restrictions that could impact the state’s economy.

Brown implemented a ban on most indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, including birthday parties, book clubs, dinner parties, and the like.

Also beginning Wednesday, masks will be required outside when physical distancing of six-feet is not possible.

Businesses and churches would not be impacted by gathering size mandate, but they are asked to enforce the mask policy if they offer outdoor seating where patrons are close together.

“The new guidelines respond to the gravity of the situation we see in Oregon right now,” said Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials said much of the spread in Oregon is due to workplace outbreaks, living facility outbreaks and social gatherings, such as graduation parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and exercise classes.

“These large indoor gatherings are literally putting lives at risk and we need everyone to enforce and comply with the social gathering limits,” Brown said in a virtual news conference.

The goal, Brown said, is to keep Oregonians safe and healthy.

But the result, if we don’t heed the directives, could be shutting down restaurants and bars again.

“Obviously we are taking these steps right now in hopes we don’t need to do that,” she said. “But all options are on the table should the transmissions of the virus continue to increase and we’ll certainly look at those measures.”

The Oregon Health Authority reported more than 740 new and presumptive cases of the disease over the weekend. Overall, the state has reported 12,438 cases and 237 deaths.

More COVID numbers were reported last week than in the entire month of May, Brown said. And half of all cases are from people under the age of 40.

Several Oregon bars and restaurants, including a handful in Central Oregon, have been referred to OHSA for violating the state’s current mandate requiring people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

But Brown said the state won’t become the “party police,” and hoped Oregonians would take some personal responsibility.

“The proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and be a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures,” she said later in a follow-up statement.

“It all depends on you. Your choices determine our future.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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