Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that the state will require people to wear facial coverings in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status to combat a spike in the novel coronavirus, just six weeks after she lifted the mask mandate.
The Democratic governor said the state recorded Tuesday more than 2,300 cases of COVID-19, the highest since the virus first appeared in Oregon, and that “hospitalizations are also at a record high.”
“The latest science is clear that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can spread the Delta variant,” said Ms. Brown in a statement. “Masks are simple, and they are effective. Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others, and they are also our best bet at keeping our schools and our businesses open.”
Oregon is believed to be the third state to require masks at indoor public venues even among the vaccinated as mask mandates make a comeback, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Ms. Brown said that new modeling from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health and Science University projects that “without new safety interventions, COVID-19 hospitalizations will completely overwhelm our doctors and nurses in the coming weeks.” “When hospitals run out of beds, we are all at risk,” she said.
Her order came a day after she said that all state executive branch employees would need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or six weeks after the vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, whichever comes first.
Not everyone is sold on masks. Eight states have enacted measures forbidding local or school mask mandates amid questions about whether their effectiveness is supported by research and the impact of long-term facial coverings on children.
Oregon House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, a Republican, took issue with the requirements, saying that the governor “shouldn’t be trying to control every aspect of their [Oregonians’] lives with mask and vaccine mandates.”
The Oregon mask rule applies to adults and children over the age of 5 and children older than 2 on mass transit.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, was suspended Tuesday from YouTube over a video in which he cast doubt on the value of retail-grade masks.
“Most of the masks you get over the counter don’t work. They don’t prevent infection,” said Mr. Paul, a physician, in a Wednesday press release. “Saying cloth masks work, when they don’t, actually risks lives, as someone may choose to care for a loved one with COVID while only wearing a cloth mask. This is not only bad advice but also potentially deadly misinformation.”
Mr. Paul, who cited Danish and Vietnamese studies, added that “when it comes to N-95 masks, I have always said that those do work.”
Ms. Brown’s announcement came “six weeks to the minute” from the state’s June 30 reopening celebration, according to The Oregonian.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its updated May 13 guidance that the fully vaccinated need not wear masks. Still, they reversed itself on July 27, saying that even vaccinated individuals in high-transmission areas should wear facial coverings in public.