Students with and without masks

(Emerald Archives)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown held a press conference to announce the details of the state’s new mask mandate today. Under the new requirements, Oregonians will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant beginning Aug. 13.

“It's clear the current situation requires immediate action to stop the Delta variant from spreading further,” Brown said. 

The Oregon Health Authority reported over 2,300 COVID-19 cases in its daily updates yesterday, the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic. State epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said that Oregon could expect to see 1,170 daily cases and 95 hospitalizations per day by the end of the week. 

Brown said spiking COVID-19 cases are due to the Delta variant, which “has changed everything.”

According to Sidelinger, the Delta variant accounts for almost all new COVID-19 cases in Oregon. 

About 90% of Oregon ICU beds are currently full, Brown said. She said some hospital regions have fewer than five available beds. According to an Oregon Health and Science University report, Oregon is predicted to be 400 to 500 hospital beds short by Sept. 6. 

Sidelinger said ICU bed availability poses a threat to all Oregonians in need of hospital care. He said the spread of the Delta variant is “far outpacing even the grim scenarios” projected by OHA. 

“The unrelenting Delta variant is sweeping through our communities,” Sidelinger said. “There are no immediate signs that this rising tide will subside anytime soon unless we act immediately to reverse this dangerous trend.”

Sidelinger said that counties with vaccination rates above 60% saw a significantly slower hospitalization rate than the ones below that threshold. 

OHA Director Patrick Allen said Oregon has seen a  373% rise in COVID-19 cases since the state lifted most restrictions on June 30.

Allen said getting vaccinated is the most important step Oregonians can take to prevent the Delta variant from spreading. He urged all unvaccinated individuals to get their shots.

“The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you and others around you, such as younger kids, are protected from COVID-19,” he said. 

Brown said she will also require all state employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a vaccine — whichever happens later.