Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced on Tuesday that the state would soon restore an indoor mask mandate for all residents, regardless of vaccinations status, and implement a vaccine requirement for some state employees.
Brown’s shift in policy came amid the ongoing surge in cases linked to the delta variant of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Oregon reported 2,329 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths. According to The Oregonian, the state also saw 635 hospitalizations, surpassing a record set last November before vaccines were widely available.
This week, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health & Science University projected that the state could exceed its health system capacity by 500 staffed hospital beds if interventions were not taken, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations — consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals — that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown said in a statement. “When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care — whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision or a variety of other emergency situations. If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.”
Brown listed two key mechanisms to help quell any further outbreak of the virus: vaccination and mask-wearing.
“If we all do our part, we can beat COVID-19 once and for all, keep our economy open and thriving, and return our kids to the classroom with minimal disruptions in a few weeks,” Brown stated.
Brown will release further details about the mandates on Wednesday.
Vaccines remain the best defense against severe cases of COVID-19 or death associated with the disease, and all three vaccines currently available in the U.S. are highly effective against the delta variant of the virus. However, concerns remain about the threat the new strain poses to children who are not yet eligible for the vaccines. Only those 12 and over can currently receive a jab and hospitals have been reporting more admissions of kids amid the latest surge.
Brown said that while Oregonians may be tired of the mask requirements, they “will not last forever.”
“But,” she added, “it is a measure that can save lives right now.”
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