Aug. 13 Update: The official masking rule has been posted online and can be found here.
Today, Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Health Authority leaders announced that indoor mask use will be mandatory starting Friday, Aug. 13, in response to surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
On July 27, in response to a large jump in cases and hospitalizations and the emergence of the Delta variant, OHA recommended universal mask use in public indoor settings.
Now, that recommendation will become a rule. The rule is forthcoming.
Governor Brown’s announcement comes on the same day that Oregon is reporting a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the second day in a row. The recent spread of COVID-19, largely caused by the emergence of the Delta variant, is prompting the Governor to take immediate action.
“Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others,” said Governor Brown. “Masks are also our best bet at keeping our schools and businesses open.”
The new masking mandate, which will go into effect this Friday, will be posted here as soon as it is available.
Mandatory vaccinations for Oregon Executive Branch workers
In addition to reinstating the statewide masking mandate, Governor Brown also announced that all state workers will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, or six weeks after the COVID-19 vaccines receive full U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
“This action will ensure our state government workplaces are safe for employees and the Oregonians we serve,” said Governor Brown. “I strongly encourage our public and private employers to follow suit and require vaccination for their employees.”
Governor Brown reiterated that vaccines are now universally available and free to anyone who wants one. State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger, who joined Gov. Brown and OHA Director Pat Allen at today’s news conference, similarly stressed how important vaccinations are for all people in Oregon.
“The Delta variant now accounts for almost every newly reported COVID-19 case,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “If you are unvaccinated, the risk of being sickened by the virus or ending up seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 has never been greater.”
Governor Brown urged Oregon residents to trust the effectiveness of the vaccines and to schedule an appointment if they had not done so already. If you are unvaccinated, you can search for and schedule vaccine appointments here.
Masking required in K–12 schools for upcoming year
On July 29, Governor Kate Brown asked state agencies to establish a mask mandate in K–12 schools for the upcoming schools year.
“The science and data are clear: The Delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious,” said Governor Brown in a July 29 press release. “My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions.”
Following her announcement, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and OHA posted the new K–12 face covering rule here.
In that document, both organizations emphasize the importance of returning to full-time, in-person learning, “where COVID-19 can spread easily if precautions are not taken.”
As such, OHA and ODE’s new masking rule reflects the reality that the Delta variant is spreading more easily throughout our community and children under 12 remain vulnerable to the virus since they are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The new rule goes on to state, “Use of face masks provides significant protection for individuals who are unvaccinated as well as an additional level of protection from the small risk of infection for fully vaccinated individuals.”
Citing data that shows COVID-19 transmission rates remain low when prevention strategies are in place, OHA and ODE firmly state that, regardless of vaccination status, all individuals will be required to wear face coverings in school for the upcoming school year.
To learn more about other changes for the upcoming K–12 school year, you can read the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year.
Health care workers required to get vaccinated or undergo routine testing
On Aug. 4, Governor Brown announced that she would direct the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to issue a new rule outlining required health and safety measures for personnel in health care settings.
“The more contagious Delta variant has changed everything,” said Governor Brown in the Aug. 4 press release. “This new safety measure is necessary to stop Delta from causing severe illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students, and frontline health care workers.”
Following her announcement, Oregon Secretary of State posted OHA’s newly drafted rule requiring COVID-19 vaccination or testing for health care providers and health care staff in health care settings here.
The new rule emphasizes the importance of having fully vaccinated health care providers and health care staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect patients and providers alike.
The new rule specifically states, “In order to work, learn, study, assist, observe, or volunteer in any healthcare setting healthcare providers and healthcare staff must:
- Be fully vaccinated; or
- Undergo COVID-19 testing at least weekly, by molecular or antigen detection for any week the provider or staff person intends to be present at a healthcare setting, on a schedule established by the healthcare provider’s or healthcare staff person’s employer, contractor or responsible party, or in the case of a self-employed healthcare provider, on their own schedule.”
You can read more about the new rule here.
Masking still required in health care settings
On June 25, Governor Brown signed Executive Order 21-15, which eliminated most pandemic-related restrictions (many of which have now resurfaced in the wake of Oregon’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases). However, the Executive Order also outlined where COVID-19 restrictions would remain in place.
Specifically, the Order states, “There will be some specialized settings like healthcare, public transportation, correctional facilities, and certain other congregate settings where enhanced COVID-19 precautions will be necessary for an additional period of time, following federal guidance.”
Accordingly, the Mask, Face Covering, and Face Shield Requirements for Health Care Offices was updated on June 30 to reflect the need for continued COVID-19 precautions in health care settings.
The document states, “While the Governor has rescinded many of the Executive Orders, the declaration of emergency remains in effect and masks are still required in health care settings… In addition, health care offices are must continue to follow all applicable state and federal regulatory requirements related to masking, including Oregon-OSHA rules addressing COVID-19 workplace risks.”
You can read the full details of that guidance here.
All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. If you are 12 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon webpage to schedule your vaccine appointment today.
You can watch a recording of today’s press conference below.