(AP) — People throughout Oregon will be required to wear face coverings in public spaces starting Wednesday to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The guidance from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown applies to businesses and members of the public visiting indoor public spaces. Face covering requirements had already been mandated in Portland and eight adjacent counties one week earlier.
Over the last month, Brown said the disease has spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties.
“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Brown said. “The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference.”
The governor has also extended the COVID-19 state of emergency for 60 days.
The state of emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders Brown has issued throughout the pandemic, including her orders on reopening Oregon, as well as orders related to childcare, schools, and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect.
Face coverings that cover the nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of the disease because droplets from people’s breath can carry the virus to others without people realizing it, she said.
Brown said she did not want to close businesses again as has happened in other states that are seeing a spike in cases. She said Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will take the lead in enforcing face covering requirements for all covered Oregon businesses.
She also urged people to keep July 4 celebrations small and local, saying the state saw a lot of new cases following Memorial Day.
More than 200 people in Oregon have died and nearly 8,500 people in the state have tested positive for the disease, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Those numbers include two additional deaths and 146 cases reported by the authority on Monday.
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.