Following the announcement that Lincoln County and others would be requiring face covering’s in indoor public spaces this coming week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today to provide some clarification to her decision.
Gov. Brown said that although case numbers are rising statewide, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the state now have a better sense of the source of new infections, such as workplace outbreaks, long-term care facilities, corrections facilities and social gatherings. Although much of the statewide outbreaks have been contained, Gov. Brown said it is still a bit unsettling.
“As we learn more about the disease, we are refining our strategies to prevent its spread,” Gov. Brown said. “This means increased testing, strictly enforcing health and safety standards, a new face covering requirement and calling on members of the public to remain cautious.”
Effective Wednesday, June 24, Lincoln, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Marion and Polk Counties will have a face covering requirement for indoor public spaces such as grocery stores and other businesses. Gov. Brown said they decided to give businesses in the respective counties a week to prepare for this new requirement and that the state is working to provide free face coverings to local businesses that need them.
This new requirement will apply to customers and visitors of businesses and exclude people with a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe, as well as children under the age of 12.
“Face coverings play critical role in reducing transmission,” Gov. Brown said. “And as we adapt to living with this disease for the foreseeable future face coverings need to become a part of our daily lives.”
The biggest question regarding the face covering requirement is enforcement. Gov. Brown said although they won’t be issuing tickets and making arrests for non-compliance, any Governor order is enforceable by law. Additionally, businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone who chooses not to wear a face covering.
“We have to live with this disease for a while and that is going to require adjusting our habits,” Gov. Brown said. “I wear it to protect our hard working doctors and nurses working day and night in our hospitals and clinics around the state, I wear it to protect my elderly neighbors, I wear it to protect kids in cancer treatment and people with compromised immune systems… I wear it because I don’t want to accidentally kill someone.”
The Oregon counties who will be subject to this requirement were chosen based on three factors: population density, ongoing spread and vulnerable populations. The state will be issuing further guidance to counties and businesses sometime prior to the June 24 date.
Gov. Brown also addressed questions have face covering effectiveness, to which she stated her decisions are based off data from the Oregon Medical Advisory Panel and OHA. The state has also been closely monitoring other countries that have instilled a similar order, which have yielded positive results for slowing transmission, according to OHA Dr. Dean Sidelinger.
“I think we have very good evidence from laboratory settings that different barriers can prevent the spread of disease and contain a virus,” Sidelinger said. “Using a mask in this way is not foreign to us in the United States, we typically do it in health care settings. If someone comes in and is coughing or showing symptoms of a disease we will ask them to put on a mask while they’re waiting the waiting room… this is really an extension of that policy.”
Sidelinger also addressed the concern of asymptomatic carriers of the virus, which was another reason for the face covering requirement.
“Putting on this mask helps keep much of that virus behind the mask so that when they’re out near someone, their ability to transmit that virus to someone else is much lower,” Sidelinger said.