Oregon is preparing to restore a statewide mandate, ordering both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to use face coverings when gathering indoors.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat, said on Tuesday that she would formally announce the return of the mask mandate on Wednesday. She said that masks were needed to fight rising caseloads driven by the Delta variant, and that face coverings were a simple tool to help keep schools and businesses open.
“After a year and a half of this pandemic, I know Oregonians are tired of health and safety restrictions,” Ms. Brown said in a statement. “This new mask requirement will not last forever, but it is a measure that can save lives right now.”
While many states implemented mask mandates and other restrictions last year, they have been loathe to re-implement such orders amid rising case numbers. Two states led by Republican governors, Texas and Florida, have barred mask mandates entirely, though some local leaders plan to impose them anyway.
Some states have mask mandates for unvaccinated people who gather indoors, but Oregon is joining Louisiana and Hawaii as the only states to extend the mandates to vaccinated people as well. Washington, D.C. has also reinstated its mask mandate, as have several big cities.
Oregon has made it through the pandemic with some of the lowest coronavirus case numbers and death numbers in the country. But cases in the state, like in much of the country, have been surging in recent days, rising from an daily average of 110 a month ago to more than 1,180. With 84 percent of the most vulnerable population, those over 65, fully vaccinated, the rise in deaths has been far smaller, reaching a daily average of six as of Wednesday.
But Covid hospitalizations have quadrupled in the past month, and the daily average of hospitalized patients is more than 550.
Ms. Brown’s office cited new modeling that projects that the state’s hospital capacity could be overrun in the next several weeks if mitigation measures aren’t in place, leaving Oregon as many as 500 beds short by September.
“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.” Ms. Brown said. “If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.”
Ms. Brown also announced that all employees working under the state’s executive branch would be required to be fully vaccinated. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State, a Democrat, announced a similar mandate on Monday.
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