PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Starting Friday, masks will be required once more in indoor public spaces amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced on Wednesday.
“It’s clear the current situation requires immediate action to stop the delta variant from spreading further,” she said.
The mask mandate begins Friday, and it’s unclear when it could end.
“Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others,” Brown said. “Masks are also our best bet at keeping our schools and businesses open.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger continued to push Oregonians to get vaccinated. He said the evidence is clear that it prevents severe disease and hospitalizations.
“Several time throughout the pandemic, Oregonians stepped up collectively to change the tide. We have the chance to do it again,” Sidelinger said.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said the delta variant makes people sicker and is causing overcrowding in the hospitals.
“The coming weeks will get worse if we don’t take immediate action,” Allen said.
Brown also announced that all executive branch employees with the State of Oregon must be fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever is later.
Some people may qualify for an exception based on disability or “sincerely held religious belief.” Unlike health care workers, State of Oregon employees will not have the option of weekly testing instead of showing proof of vaccination.
Data from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health and Science University suggests COVID hospitalizations will far exceed the state’s healthcare capacity in the coming weeks if steps are not taken to curb the spread of the delta variant.
“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,” said Brown. “When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care––whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision, or a variety of other emergency situations. If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.
“There are two keys to saving lives. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. And, by wearing masks, all of us––vaccinated and unvaccinated––can help ensure that a hospital bed staffed by health professionals is available for our loved ones in their time of need. If we all do our part, we can beat COVID-19 once and for all, keep our economy open and thriving, and return our kids to the classroom with minimal disruptions in a few weeks.”
On Tuesday, Oregon health officials reported 2,329 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases along with nine new deaths.