Delta variant ‘is not great, mask mandate is necessary’


Multnomah County mandate takes effect August 13

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — No one is excited to have a mask mandate back in place. But people who spoke with KOIN 6 News Monday night said they’re willing to do it if that’s what it takes to get the case counts down and keep businesses open.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced the executive order for everyone 5 and older in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination. The new requirement starts Aug. 13, and according to Kafoury, “it will be enforced.” People could face fines of up to $1,000 but Kafoury said they will start with education before fines.

“I know I was excited to be unmasked for the 5 weeks that we’ve been unmasked. I was pumped about it,” said Kurt Witzlsteiner. “I think it’s necessary. The delta variant is harsh. It’s not great.”

David Ilderton said he has friends “that are actually vaccinated that got extremely sick just recently and they still are sick right now.”

A woman wears a mask at Artifact in Portland, August 9, 2021 (KOIN)

Health concerns are why Artifact, a consignment shop on Division, never stopped requiring masks.

“I would say 95% of people are very understanding and actually a lot of people really appreciated it,” said Artifact owner Leah Meijer.

She had to close the store for 3 months during a previous surge in the pandemic and said she favors the mask mandate. She hopes it helps lower case numbers so stores like hers can continue to stay open.

“To be able to keep doing the things that we enjoy because we definitely all had that taken away,” Meijer said. “I think I would much rather wear a mask than not be able to go shopping, not be able to go do certain things that I really enjoy.”

As for what the mask mandate enforcement looks like, Multnomah County officials said there will be information coming out later this week for online and phone reporting of violators.

A sign posted at a business in Portland, August 9, 2021 (KOIN)

Portland to also require masks

In a statement Monday afternoon, Mayor Ted Wheeler said Portland will have mask requirements as well.

“Earlier today, Multnomah County announced it will be requiring face coverings for all indoor spaces beginning Friday, August 13 to help slow the steep curve of infections of the Delta Variant. The City of Portland will also be announcing the same requirement. I’m grateful to Chair Kafoury, Multnomah County and its health officials for their leadership on this effort to help save lives, to continue to support our local economy and keep it from shutting down, and to safely open schools in September. Public health officials have clearly stated that getting vaccinated and wearing face coverings are the two most important things people can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta Variant. The City of Portland fully supports these efforts.”

Gov. Brown tells local leaders to do something

In a statement Monday afternoon, Gov. Kate Brown put the onus on local leaders who asked for local control when they met last week.

“I am calling on local leaders to take action now to institute mask requirements. At this point in the pandemic, local leaders are in a unique position to help deliver the message to members of their communities about effective safety measures like vaccination and masks. But the fact remains, we have a finite number of staffed hospital beds in Oregon. If local leaders continue not to act and their regional hospitals exceed their capacity, it will impact hospitals all across the state. We will continue to explore statewide health measures necessary to stop the Delta variant from stretching Oregon hospitals beyond their full capacity.”

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