Face masks. Photo: Chas Hundley

Adding to an earlier order to mandate masking in indoor public settings, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an order on Tuesday that will mandate outdoor mask wearing in settings where social distancing cannot be maintained starting Friday, August 27. 

“The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high,” Brown said. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19. The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants we’ve seen, 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.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority on Monday, the latest available data, there were 937 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, 37 more than the previous day, with 253 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, 22 more than the previous day. 

Out of the state’s 657 total adult ICU beds spread across Oregon’s hospitals, just 47—or 7%— of them were available as of Monday, while 349—or 8%—non-ICU beds were available of the state’s 4,172 non-ICU beds. 

The new rule will apply to all, regardless of vaccination status, and will when individuals from different households are unable to maintain physical distance in public spaces. 

For example, during this weekend’s Banks BBQ event when fans of the truck and tractor pull and the ever-popular combine derby packed the stands at the Sunset Speedway, the spectators would have been required to mask up. It doesn’t apply for fleeting encounters—walking past someone on a sidewalk at Banks’ Greenville Park or on the Gales Creek Trail, for example—or in private households. 

The rule does not apply to those under 5, those actively eating, drinking, or sleeping outdoors, those participating in outdoor sports, or people singing or delivering speeches. 

At school events—such as football games—where the public is invited to the grounds of a K-12 school, masks will be required. Currently, masks are required indoors in schools. 

State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said that in Oregon, cases have been known to spring up following outdoor events. 

“It is much easier for people with the Delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” Sidelinger said. “This is because they have one thousand times more virus in their nose – which means that those around them are much more likely to get sick because+ this variant behaves so differently. We are starting to see instances where cases are clustering around events, like outdoor music festivals, that happen outdoors. Wearing masks in crowded settings – even outdoors – will help slow the spread of COVID-19."

Information on finding a vaccine in Washington County can be found online here or by dialing 211.