Oregon residents will face two new COVID-19 safety mandates beginning Wednesday — a ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people and a requirement that people wear face coverings outside if they cannot socially distance.
The rules were announced Monday by Gov. Kate Brown come as the state’s coronavirus case count continues to escalate. Oregon reported more cases last week than it did during the entire month of May.
“We are here today to sound the alarm,” Brown said. “The COVID-19 disease is spreading rapidly across the state of Oregon. Each and every one of us needs to take action — immediate action — to slow the spread.”
As the week began, Oregon has a total of 12,438 confirmed coronavirus cases and 237 deaths.
Recent projections by the Oregon Health Authority predict that at the current pace, the estimated number of new daily, confirmed infections could reach anywhere from 1,100 to 3,600 in the coming weeks.
“We are at risk of allowing the virus to spiral out of control,” Brown said.
Following these “troubling trends” Brown announced, that beginning Wednesday, people must wear a face covering while outside if they cannot remain six feet apart from others or if they are with people that they do not live with.
Currently, Oregonians are required to wear masks at indoor public spaces such as grocery stores, shops and restaurants. In addition, Brown announced that indoor social gathering of 10 or more people are banned.
Brown made clear that the social gathering limit does not apply to churches and businesses.
“The new guidelines respond to the gravity of the situation we see in Oregon right now,” said Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority.
Health officials said much of the spread in Oregon is due to workplace outbreaks, living facility outbreaks and social gatherings, such as graduation parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and exercise classes.
A third of the state’s cases are people under the age of 30, Brown said.
Health officials reported Monday an outbreak at Snake River Correctional Institution in Malheur County, which is in southeast Oregon and borders Idaho.
Officials linked 102 cases to the outbreak. However, this number does not include any Idaho residents who may be infected.
Based on data collected about the COVID-19 spread across Oregon, Brown said she is not making the decision to close down businesses again at this time — however, that could become a reality if things do not improve.
“Your choices determine our future,” Brown said. “If we don’t slow the spread of the virus we will have no choice but to force widespread and difficult closures.”
While the state has cited some businesses for violating current requirements, Brown said the state will not be taking on the role of “party police” but rather are relying on people to follow the new restrictions on their own.
Whether or not people comply will become evident in the coming weeks, Brown said.
“The proof will be in the numbers,” Brown said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.