PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Regardless of vaccination status, everyone 5 and older is recommended to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, Multnomah County Public Health announced Monday.
In the past 3 weeks, Oregon has seen new coronavirus cases rise by 243%. Nearly 3000 cases were recorded in the state this week, the highest weekly total since mid-May.
As of Monday, there have been 215,853 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, and 2838 deaths. The Monday report from the Oregon Health Authority showed new cases in 32 of Oregon’s 36 counties.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference in our county’s case rates right now. But if we don’t act, we can expect an exponential rise in cases, especially in pockets with low vaccinations. This could lead to preventable hospitalizations and even death,” said Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey. “Masking is a step we can all take right now to keep businesses open and move ahead with our plans for the school year. This is the thing that will make a difference.”
Multnomah County never dropped the mask rule for inside their buildings.
“We are asking people to mask up regardless of their vaccination status,” Guernsey said.
What’s pushing this recommendation is the rising number of COVID cases in each of the 50 US states. Despite nearly 2.5 million Oregonians being vaccinated, millions are not — including children 12-and-under.
In Multnomah County, where 74% of adults are vaccinated, there was a 50% increase in COVID cases last week, most of it the highly contagious delta variant.
The masks recommendation even for those who are vaccinated is to protect others from breakthrough cases — that is, people who contract COVID-19 even though they are vaccinated. But it’s also to increase the likelihood that those who are not vaccinated are covered up.
Multnomah County officials said they don’t have the enforcement ability to require masks be worn inside – but said that is still an option.
Many businesses already have “masks recommended” signs.
Multnomah County is working with Portland and other school districts to decide whether masks will again be a required back-to-school item.
Multnomah County is the latest jurisdiction to recommend masks again. Others with mask recommendations include Seattle, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Savannah, Georgia.
Health officials said fully vaccinated people seem to be well-protected from severe death and death with the delta variants. But those not fully vaccinated are not as well-protected.
“Even fully-vaccinated people can still become mildly ill and transmit the virus to others,” they said in a statement.
Guernsey said, “Vaccination remains the very best protection against this virus and its variants, so for anyone who can, don’t wait. Get your shot. But we need a quick course correction to protect children and other people right now. And masks offer that protection.”