Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday that she will re-implement a statewide indoor mask mandate for all residents regardless of their vaccination status as part of a new effort to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases.
In addition to the renewed mask mandate, Oregon will require state employees who work in the executive branch to get fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives FDA approval. Brown did not specify when the mask mandate will take effect, though she is scheduled to make a formal announcement on guidance at a press conference Wednesday.“The latest science is clear: although unvaccinated individuals are more likely to contract the disease, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the Delta variant. Masks are a simple and effective way to make sure you are not unknowingly infecting your friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. After a year and a half of this pandemic, I know Oregonians are tired of health and safety restrictions. This new mask requirement will not last forever, but it is a measure that can save lives right now.
Brown’s office said the safety measures were necessary because local public health data projected that “hospitalizations will far exceed Oregon’s health system capacity in the next several weeks” without preventative measures. On Monday, the state reported 2,329 new COVID-19 cases and a record 635 hospitalizations.
Oregon is the third state to require fully vaccinated residents to mask indoors amid a surge caused by the delta variant. The CDC recently adjusted its guidance to recommend masks regardless of vaccination status in areas with a high rate of transmission.
“Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations––consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals––that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown added.
The possibility of new mask mandates kicked off disputes between Republican and Democratic leaders across the country in recent days. Last week, President Biden criticized Republican governors in several states for banning mask mandates.
Oregon Republicans have been critical of Brown’s leadership. Local GOP lawmakers criticized the governor in recent days after reports surfaced that she signed a law suspending math, reading, and writing proficiency requirements for high school students.