By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Local officials on Monday applauded Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement that all Oregonians must wear face coverings in indoor public spaces beginning Wednesday.
Bend Mayor Sally Russel said, “the timing couldn’t be better.”
“We are seeing so many visitors to our city and region coming from all over the U.S. so it’s really important to have this in place right now in the city of Bend,” she said.
She said more locals wearing masks will send a signal to visitors that we all need to do our part in keeping everyone healthy and our businesses open.
“We are seeing so many visitors to our city and region coming from all over the U.S. so it’s really important to have this in place right now in the city of Bend.” – Bend Mayor Sally Russell
The guidance from Gov. Kate Brown applies to businesses and the public visiting indoor public spaces.
“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 a statement. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties. The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference.
“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.”
Oregon reported 674 new cases of COVID between Friday and Monday; 204 people have died here.
Deschutes County currently has 29 active cases with 143 of the 172 reported cases considered “recovered.”
Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson said he liked the idea of requiring people to wear masks indoors for both health and economic reasons.
“We’re heavily dependant on tourism and if we get known as a place for outbreaks, that could be really damaging from an economic standpoint,” he said.
Henderson said the county has tried education without enforcing a mask requirement, but that doesn’t seem to be enough, especially now cases in Oregon on are the rise.
“We’ve had several months of now education and I don’t really see an increase in a lot of places, and it seems like some people intentionally don’t want to wear a mask and they may be putting some of us in jeopardy,” he said.
Face covering requirements are already mandated in eight counties. Some others, including Clatsop County – which has fewer than 50 cases – had requested the governor make them required.
“St. Charles supports Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to expand the requirement to wear masks in public spaces to the entire state – especially as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in our region,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles Health System. “Masking has been required at all St. Charles facilities for many months now and we are encouraged to know that other public places will soon follow suit. Wearing a mask is a very simple way to decrease the spread of this disease and to protect our community.”
The local reaction was certainly mixed with some on our Facebook page saying “it’s about time,” while others called it “ridiculous.”
“The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter,” Brown said. “Face coverings that cover your nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of this disease because droplets from our breath can carry the virus to others without us realizing it. If we all wear face coverings, practice six feet of physical distancing in public, wash our hands regularly, and stay home when we are sick, then we can avoid the worst-case scenarios that are now playing out in other states.”
Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said her group supported the move.
“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.”
Brown said the order is necessary to avoid having to close down businesses again like other states are doing.
“If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public,” she said.
She urged Oregonians to keep their Fourth of July celebrations small and local after seeing a small spike in cases following the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“Another spike in cases after the upcoming holiday weekend could put Oregon in a dangerous position,” she said.
Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead, along with other state and local agencies, in enforcing face-covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.