In a press release issued today, Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide masking rule for those venturing outdoors in response to the continuing surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant throughout Oregon.
Starting this Friday, August 27, Oregonians will be required to mask up in most outdoor settings—particularly large gatherings where physical distancing is impossible—regardless of vaccination status. And while not part of this rule, the state also highly recommends masking for those holding outdoor get-togethers at private residences when members of different households will be present. The new rule also does not apply to "fleeting encounters," such as when two people are passing each other on the street or in a park.
According to the governor, the new mandate is necessary due to the highly transmissible and dangerous nature of the Delta variant.
“The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants we’ve seen," the Governor said in the press release, "and it has dramatically increased the amount of virus in our communities. Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight COVID and protect one another.”
Hospitalizations from the COVID-19 virus have skyrocketed over the past two weeks with hospital beds reaching a 92 percent capacity across the state, severely straining the workload for healthcare providers.
As with current indoor masking requirements, there are exceptions to the Governor's new outdoor mask mandate as well. According to the press release, these exceptions include:
• Children under 5 years old
• Individuals who are actively eating, drinking, or sleeping — as well as individuals living outdoors, such as persons experiencing houselessness
• Persons playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask — such as swimming
• Individuals delivering a speech or performing — such as with outdoor music or theater
• Mask requirements for day-to-day operations at K-12 schools are not governed by this rule, and will instead continue to fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events, and gatherings of the general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule. Child care and youth programs will continue to follow existing OHA mask guidance
• In addition, entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law
The governor made no mention if there would be any punishment or fines leveled at those who defy the new order.
While the new mandate doesn't go into effect until this Friday, August 27, the governor and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are strongly recommending that all Oregonians start following the new rule immediately.
This post will be updated with any new information.