SALEM, Ore. (AP) — As the total number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon nears 40,000 people, health officials announced Monday that face-covering requirements are once again being expanded to include all private and public work spaces, outdoor markets and colleges.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 266 new and presumptive COVID-19 cases Monday and eight deaths. The numbers bring the state’s case tally to 39,794. The death toll is 627.
Currently, Oregonians are required to wear masks at indoor public spaces and outside when they cannot maintain 6 feet of space between others.
The Oregon Health Authority is expanding the requirement to now include all private and public workplaces, including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, workspaces, outdoor markets, street fairs, private career schools and public and private colleges and universities.
In addition, state health officials also said they recommend that people wear masks rather than face shields.
The expansion of mask requirements emerge as the COVID-19 rate of transmission in Oregon has increased.
For six weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 cases were in a downward trend. However, since mid-September, officials warned that numbers were again increasing at an alarming rate.
At the current rate of transmission, Oregon Health Authority officials project that new infections will increase substantially to 570 new reported cases a day and 40 hospitalizations.
On Friday the health authority also submitted a draft plan to the federal government for allocating and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon, “once a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.”
The health authority’s plan follows federal guidance of a phased approach that “assumes a COVID-19 vaccine will be, at the outset, in limited supply and should be focused on individuals critical to the pandemic response, provide direct care and maintain societal function, as well as those at highest risk for developing severe illness.”
The plan will allow for broadening of the vaccine’s distribution to other high-risk groups and the general population as more doses become available.