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Gov. Brown Mandates Masks In State Buildings

State government employees and visitors inside state agencies must mask up when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
State health officials are racing to win federal approval of Oregon Health Plan changes before Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, shown at the Oregon Convention Center vaccination site, leaves office. | KRISTYNA WENTZ-GRAFF/OPB
July 30, 2021

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced that state employees and visitors to state government buildings must wear masks, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status. 

The new mandate follows new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends everyone age 2 and older wear masks in indoor public places, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination. The shift comes due to growing concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the virus, which can transmit more easily, including from vaccinated people with no symptoms to unvaccinated people. Research shows the vaccine offers the best protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant.

Brown’s new policy requiring masks in indoor spaces operated by state government has some exceptions. It allows people to remove masks for eating and procedures that require facial identification, such as receiving a driver’s license. 

“The science and data are clear: the delta variant is spreading in our communities and is more contagious,” Brown said in a statement. “This mask requirement will protect Oregonians, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the pandemic and who continue to provide essential services to Oregonians. We also must protect everyone — both agency employees and community members who visit state agencies for information, services, and resources. This new guidance accomplishes both.”

The Oregon Health Authority and Brown recommend — but don’t require — masks in indoor public places that aren’t state operated, such as restaurants, stores and entertainment venues. 

On Thursday, Brown directed the health authority and Oregon Department of Education to write a rule requiring K-12 students to wear masks in public schools this fall. 

Oregon and other states continue to face challenges to vaccinate people and overcome hesitancy. About 70% of Oregon adults age 18 and older are vaccinated, but the crowds of people who lined up at mass clinics are no longer driving numbers up. Now, the vaccination work unfolds in smaller venues, such as health departments, local events, clinics and pharmacies. 

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1