By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday expanded a statewide mask mandate to include children and scaled back gathering size limits for restaurants, bars and churches in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The new mask rules for kids age 5 and over will also extend to schools if students return to the classroom this fall, Brown said in a news conference from Salem.
Additionally, Brown announced a new 10 p.m. curfew for all Oregon bars and restaurants.
All of the new rules go into effect Friday.
“The COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread too quickly across Oregon so it’s time to take further action to stop the spread of the disease,” Brown said.
Over the last week, the state reported more than 2,400 cases, a 26% increase from the previous week, said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s health officer and epidemiologist
Oregon has now surpassed 15,000 cases and more than 270 people have died.
The new mask mandate also expands to places like gyms, where they will be required even while working out, Brown said.
One week ago today, Brown implemented a ban on most indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, including birthday parties, book clubs and dinner parties and asked Oregonians to wear masks outside when social distancing was not possible.
At the time, businesses and churches were exempt from the gathering-size mandate, but they were asked to enforce the mask policy if they offer outdoor seating where patrons are close together.
But beginning Friday, indoor gathering sizes are limited to 100 people at all of Oregon’s restaurants, bars, churches and other venues regardless of what phase of reopening they’re in.
“Your choices determine our future,” Brown said. “If we don’t slow the spread of the virus I will have no choice but to force widespread and difficult closures again.”
Brown said all of these measures were difficult decisions not taken lightly, but with all Oregonians in mind.
“I’m particularly concerned that the school year is only a few weeks away,” she said. “We want ot to make sure our children can stay safe and get a good education. We have got to get the virus rates down if we’re going to hope to get children back into the classrooms.”
Brown also said she is concerned with the number of tourists visiting the state and is talking with leaders in neighboring states about possible restrictions.
“I have already directed my team and the Oregon Health Authority to evaluate the process for restricting tourist travel into Oregon from states with high infection rates — or requiring mandatory quarantine for people coming here from hot spots,” she said. “Together we are taking these steps to protect Oregon. To dim the lights. To slow the spread.”
She said she could have more guidance on that in the coming days.
This is a developing story.