New Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate Takes Effect Friday

Governor Kate Brown has made good on her promise to reinstate a statewide mask mandate, requiring Oregonians age 5 and older to wear face coverings indoors starting Friday — regardless of their vaccination status.

The governor is also strongly encouraging residents to wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, but not requiring it.

The sequel is rarely as good as the original, and we’ll see if the adage holds true when The Masked Face 2: Revenge of the Unvaccinated hits theaters (and all other indoor public spaces in Oregon) later this week.

Brown said the new mandate is meant to stem a massive surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations since Oregon lifted its remaining pandemic-era business restrictions at the end of June.

New infections are up 800% since then, from a daily average of 110 a month ago to nearly 1,300 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations have increased six-fold, Brown said, reaching an all-time pandemic high of 635 patients Tuesday.

The state reported more than 3,200 new cases Monday and an additional 2,329 on Tuesday — both high-water marks since the pandemic reached Oregon in March 2020. Officials say this fifth surge is being driven primarily by the super-contagious delta variant — which now accounts for almost 100% of new cases in Oregon.

“We continue to work to reach Oregonians with information and a vaccine, but it’s clear the current situation requires immediate action to stop the delta variant from spreading further,” Brown said Wednesday. “That’s why, moving forward for the immediate future, masks will be required in all indoor public settings.

“The latest science is clear that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are able to spread the delta variant. Masks are simple, and they are effective. Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others, and they are also our best bet at keeping our schools and our businesses open.”

Brown’s latest mandates follow the dire warnings of health officials this week, who predict the state’s hospital capacity could be overrun in the next several weeks without these new mitigation measures in place, leaving Oregon as many as 500 beds short by Labor Day.

Republicans have been sharply critical of the new mandates, like state Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, of Lyons.

“The governor has a serious credibility problem,” Girod said in a press release. “She obviously has no clear standards for any decision she makes. Instead, these mandates seem to be driven by left-wing activists who want a permanent pandemic to push forward unpopular policies.”

As for the new vaccine mandate for state workers, Girod decried it as a “total violation of Oregonians’ individual rights” and predicted it would do little to increase immunization rates.

“It won’t lead to a large uptick in vaccination, but instead segregate society by medical status,” Girod said. “If the state wants to mandate vaccines for Oregonians, the state must take legal and financial liability.

“Right now, no one — not the insurers, not the drug companies, not the government, no one — takes responsibility when things go wrong when someone receives a vaccine. We know that in rare circumstances, blood clots and other conditions result from the Covid-19 vaccine. If Democrats want to mandate vaccines, they must take financial responsibility and liability for the consequences.”

Oregon was the 47th state (tied with Washington) to fully reopen its economy and lift the mask mandate in most places — and is now only the third to again require universal masking indoors, behind Louisiana and Hawaii. Washington, D.C., has also reinstated its mask mandate, as have several large cities.

On the other side of the coin, two states led by Republican governors, Texas and Florida, have barred mask mandates statewide — though some local leaders plan to impose them anyway.

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