PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown held a press conference on Monday alongside Oregon Health Authority officials to discuss the "state of COVID-19 in Oregon," outlining two new statewide mandates as cases continue to spike in the state.
"We're here today to sound the alarm," Governor Brown began at Monday's briefing.
OHA has reported some of the highest daily case counts since the outbreak began over the past week — due in part to expanded testing, but with a noted steady increase in the overall positivity rate out of total tests performed.
Last week the agency urged Oregonians to keep private gatherings to less than 10 people; with precautions including social distancing, use of face coverings, and making an effort to hold gatherings outdoors instead of inside.
Brown announced on Monday that she will be issuing a statewide ban on indoor social get-togethers of more than 10 people, putting more force behind the OHA request. The mandate does not apply to businesses or churches "at this time," Brown said.
Despite the rule on private gatherings, Brown said that she will not "set up the party police" — meaning that there will not be any solid mechanisms of enforcement for this rule.
The statewide mandate on face coverings for indoor public spaces will also be expanded to include outdoor spaces when social distancing of six feet can't be maintained, beginning on Wednesday.
"We are at risk of allowing the virus to spiral out of control," Brown said.
The new measures are intended to prevent closing down bars and restaurants again, as states like California and Texas have done. However, Brown said, "nothing is off the table" if cases continue to spike.
“We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmission in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again," said Governor Brown. “The proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and be a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures.”
OHA director Patrick Allen said that he agreed with Brown's new mandates, saying that another surge in cases — if accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations — could overwhelm the state's hospital and health care systems.
Young people represent the vast majority of cases over the past several weeks, Brown said, and Oregon recently marked the second coronavirus-related death of someone in their 30s.
Outbreaks at agricultural and food processing workplaces in rural Oregon have accounted for some of the rise in cases, Brown said, along with some assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and prisons. However, many cases have been linked to private social gatherings.
Allen said that cases have increasingly been linked to holiday family and social gatherings over the past month or more — Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day, and a similar spike expected from Independence Day.
A common tendency is for people to set face coverings aside when speaking with close family and friends, said OHA epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. With case counts on the rise, Sidelinger said that continuing to wear face coverings shows respect for their well-being.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more information from the press conference as they emerge.