In efforts to halt the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, Gov. Kate Brown has announced a new outdoor mask mandate.
Beginning Friday, masks will be required in most outdoor environments. This includes large outdoor events — regardless of vaccination status — where social distancing is harder to achieve.
“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 in an announcement. “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 Oregon Health Authority also recommends masks at outdoor gatherings at private residences where people from different households may attend.
This mandate does not extend to brief outdoor encounters — such as people quickly passing each other on trails or in a park.
In the announcement, State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger, addressed the growth of COVID-19 cases.
“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.”
Sidelinger went on to emphasize how crowded outdoor events have contributed to the spread.
“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,” he said.
The new rule fits with recent statewide indoor mask mandates and does not apply to:
- Children under five years old.
- Individuals who are actively eating, drinking or sleeping — as well as those living outdoors, such as those experiencing homelessness
- Individuals delivering a speech or performing outdoors.
- Masks requirements for schools are not governed by this rule and fall under the school mask rule. Outdoor events and gatherings will be subject to the rule. Child care and youth programs will continue following existing OHA mask guidance.
While the mandate officially goes into effect this Friday, health officials encourage people to start wearing masks outdoors immediately.