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Outdoor mask mandate now in effect across Oregon

The new rule requires masks for all people in outdoor settings where people from different households cannot maintain physical distance.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — As of Aug. 27, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's statewide outdoor mask requirements are now in effect. Masks are required in most public outdoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. 

The new rule requires masks for all people in outdoor settings where people from different households cannot maintain physical distance, such as large outdoor events. The mask requirements do not apply to brief encounters, such as two hikers passing each other on a trail. 

The state's indoor mask mandate remains in effect.

Oregon's hospitals are quickly filling to capacity amid a surge of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. As of Monday, there were more than 900 COVID-19 patients in Oregon hospitals and only 7% of ICU beds were available. 

“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,” Governor Brown said in a news release. “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."

RELATED: Portland's major theater venues requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID test

The rules do not apply to private residences, but the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is recommending people wear masks even for small outdoor gatherings where people from different households aren't maintaining physical distance. 

“It is much easier for people with the delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” said State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “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. 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.”

Like the state's indoor mask mandate, the outdoor mask requirements do not apply to: 

  • Children under 5 years old
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking, or sleeping
  • Individuals living outdoors
  • People playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask, such as swimming
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing, such as with outdoor music or theater
  • Mask requirements for day-to-day operations at K-12 schools are not governed by this rule, and will instead continue to fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events, and gatherings of the general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule. Child care and youth programs will continue to follow existing OHA mask guidance
  • Entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law

Oregon OSHA will enforce the rule while working with employers and entities that host public events, according to Charles Boyle with Gov. Brown's office.

"With 1,000 hospitalizations today and record case counts, we all have a role to play to stop the delta variant from further spreading. To save lives at this moment of crisis, we're counting on Oregon employers and individuals to lean into these temporary measures so we can protect one another right now," said Boyle.

Businesses that host outdoor events, such as a wedding at a venue, will fall under the rule. Events at a private residence will not, though masking is still strongly encouraged, the governor's office said.

RELATED: Vaccine misinformation flows at Josephine County Board of Commissioners meeting

“The combination of vaccines and masks is the most powerful way we can fight this latest surge of COVID-19 and save lives," said Gov. Brown. "Vaccination continues to be the best way you can protect yourself and your family from the delta variant, and the most effective way we can help our exhausted nurses and doctors, who are working around the clock to treat Oregonians sick with COVID in our ICUs — the majority of which are unvaccinated individuals. With the full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine this week, we have additional reassurance that the vaccines are safe and effective.”