PORTLAND, Ore. — A mandate from Governor Kate Brown that face coverings be worn at public indoor spaces throughout the state of Oregon is now in effect. Brown announced the expanded requirement on Monday, setting July 1 as the effective date.
“From the beginning of the reopening process, I have said that reopening comes with the risk of seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases beyond our health systems’ capacity to test, trace, and isolate them,” Brown said on Monday. “Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties. The upcoming July 4 holiday weekend is a critical point for Oregon in this pandemic, and we can all make a difference."
Previously, only eight Oregon counties had the same requirement, largely in the northwest area of the state where coronavirus cases are most prevalent. Speaking about the expanded mandate, Governor Brown cited rising infection rates and a viral modeling report provided to the Oregon Health Authority that showed considerable potential for further spread.
Under the new face covering guidelines, masks will be required in all businesses — including grocery stores, gyms, pharmacies, public transit, salons and barber shops, restaurants, retail stores and shopping malls, and in ride shares.
Governor Brown said that the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be taking the lead on enforcement of the statement requirement, but the responsibility will largely fall on businesses to make sure that both workers and patrons are complying.
"Our expectation is that employers enforce the requirements, and that would include more than just posting a sign saying those are the requirements," said Aaron Corvin, public information officer for OSHA. "Our expectation is that employers would engage with guests and visitors in a very polite way, to remind them of the requirement for facial coverings."
Corvin said that the customers or guests of a business represent a potential source of infection for workers, which is where the agency's authority comes in. While there is no specific penalty outlined right now for violations, Corvin said that willful non-compliance with the directive could result in a substantial fine.
Governor Brown did not issue a new executive order for the mask policy, but Executive Order 20-25 — which lays out the rules and processes for Oregon's reopening — includes multiple sections that say the Governor can modify aspects "as necessary" to then be expressed through Oregon Health Authority guidelines.
Brown has said that the main impetus behind the mask requirement is to avoid having to roll back reopening and shut businesses down again, which has occurred in several states that have seen a resurgence in COVID-19 infection.
At least one local business, Superior Athletic Club, announced this week that it would not enforce the letter of those guidelines — which require masks in fitness centers except during strenuous exercise. Other companies have quickly embraced the new requirement.
NewsWatch 12 will be checking in with more local businesses this week to find out how they are adjusting to the face covering rules.