Here we go again?
Amid a worrying surge of new Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations, which public health experts say has been driven by the more contagious delta variant and vaccine resistance, the Oregon Health Authority recommends a return to universal mask wearing in public indoor settings.
The announcement Tuesday followed a similar about-face from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling on even fully vaccinated individuals to mask up indoors in areas with high case rates — which would include Clackamas and 24 other counties in Oregon.
The OHA on Tuesday reported 1,032 new confirmed and presumptive cases of Covid-19 — its highest one-day total since January.
Meanwhile, state officials reported 259 people with Covid-19 are actively hospitalized, a more than 25% increase from Monday — and the biggest daily jump since the start of the pandemic.
“Today’s reported sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations in Oregon are sobering reminders that the pandemic is not over, especially for Oregonians who remain unvaccinated,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist and state health officer.
Sidelinger said the highly contagious delta variant has increased tenfold in Oregon over the past two weeks and is associated with an estimated 80% of the new cases in Oregon.
The CDC has consistently confirmed that the vaccines currently being used in the United States are effective against all known variants of the coronavirus, including delta.
State officials have said more than 90% of Oregon’s Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths have been unvaccinated individuals.
“The use of face masks provides significant protection for individuals who are unvaccinated as well as an additional level of protection from a small but known risk of infection by the virus for persons who have already been vaccinated,” Sidelinger said.
OHA’s recommendation aligns with the CDC’s new guidance that everyone, including fully vaccinated persons, wear a mask in public indoor settings.
OHA’s recommendation applies statewide, and not just areas with higher infections and high transmission.
Whether the spike will lead Governor Kate Brown to reverse course on the statewide mask mandate and other business restrictions she lifted less than a month ago remains to be seen.
Brown told reporters Tuesday she would be discussing the matter with public health experts and “making a decision later today or later this week.”
For more information about the vaccine and where you can find it, visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov. If you have questions about taking the vaccine, consult your health care provider.
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