Brown issues new outdoor mask mandate as COVID hospitalizations reach 1,000

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregonians, regardless of vaccination status, will once again be required to wear masks in most public outdoor settings beginning Friday.

That includes large outdoor events where physical distancing is not possible.

Health officials say part of the reasoning is that they’re seeing instances where cases are clustering around outdoor events, such as music festivals.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the outdoor mask mandate Tuesday.

It’s part of a growing list of statewide mandates implemented in Oregon in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Over the past month, coronavirus cases fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant have overwhelmed hospitals in the Pacific Northwest state.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority also strongly recommends masks for outdoor gatherings at private residences where multi-households are gathering.

“The delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high,” Brown said in a statement. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

On Tuesday, Oregon reported 1,000 patients hospitalized with COVID

The move is the latest drastic measure taken by state leaders to slow a current surge of COVID cases.

Tuesday’s announcement marks another level of COVID restrictions put in place at large venues across the state recently.

Last week, the Les Shwab Amphitheater in Bend announced it would require a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination all shows beginning Aug. 29th.

Beau Eastes, marketing director for LSA, said they’ll continue to adhere to the state’s COVID mandates.

The University of Oregon and Oregon State University announced similar provisions for upcoming Duck and Beaver football games and other sporting events.

Central Oregon COVID cases, hospitalizations reach record highs

Under Brown’s direction, the OHA rule will require masks for all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — in outdoor settings in which individuals from different households are unable to consistently maintain physical distance.

The rule does not apply to fleeting encounters, such as two individuals walking by one another on a trail or in a park.

“It is much easier for people with the Delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” said State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “This is because they have one thousand times more virus in their nose – which means that those around them are much more likely to get sick because this variant behaves so differently. We are starting to see instances where cases are clustering around events, like outdoor music festivals, that happen outdoors. Wearing masks in crowded settings – even outdoors – will help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The rule aligns with the exceptions outlined in the recent statewide indoor mask requirements and does not apply to:

  • Children under 5 years old;
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking, or sleeping — as well as individuals living outdoors, such as persons experiencing houselessness;
  • Persons playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask — such as swimming;
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing — such as with outdoor music or theater;
  • Mask requirements for day-to-day operations at K-12 schools are not governed by this rule, and will instead continue to fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events, and gatherings of the general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule. Child care and youth programs will continue to follow existing OHA mask guidance; and
  • In addition, entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law.

“The combination of vaccines and masks is the most powerful way we can fight this latest surge of COVID-19 and save lives. Vaccination continues to be the best way you can protect yourself and your family from the Delta variant, and the most effective way we can help our exhausted nurses and doctors, who are working around the clock to treat Oregonians sick with COVID in our ICUs — the majority of which are unvaccinated individuals,” Brown said. “With the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine this week, we have additional reassurance that the vaccines are safe and effective.”

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