PORTLAND, Ore. — Children as young as 5 years old are now required to wear masks in Oregon.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the new age requirements for face masks and new limits on indoor gatherings at a news conference Wednesday.
“Oregon, we ventured onto the ice together, and that ice has begun to crack,” Brown said. "The COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread too quickly across Oregon.”
Starting Friday, face coverings are required statewide for children ages 5 and older at indoor public places, and outdoors where 6 feet of distance from others can't be maintained. Masks are recommended for children ages 2-5.
Gov. Brown also said statewide gathering limits for indoor venues, restaurants and bars will be 100 people starting Friday. The gathering limit for outdoor venues in Phase 2 counties will remain at 250 people.
Restaurant and bar service will end at 10 p.m. statewide beginning Friday, Brown said.
“I don’t make these decisions lightly and there are no easy choices,” said Brown.
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced that all students and staff who return to schools this fall will be required to wear face masks. The ODE will distribute 5 million face masks to schools districts to make the requirement happen.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said the new measures will help slow the spread of the virus without shutting down the entire state.
"Our models told us we would see more infections, more hospitalizations and more deaths when we reopened. And that’s what we continue to see," Sidelinger said. "Without a vaccine, these social mitigation strategies are the best tools we have to slow the spread."
Oregon saw more than 2,400 new COVID-19 cases last week, which was a 26% increase from the previous week, Sidelinger said.
Gov. Brown said an updated county watch list -- a list of counties with highly concerning case numbers -- will be released in the coming days. She announced she is working with health officials on a potential plan to restrict tourism-related travel to Oregon from neighboring states.
In her last press conference on July 13, Brown stated that she and the OHA were there to "sound the alarm" and she announced a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. In the same news conference, Gov. Brown also expanded the face mask requirements for outdoors, asking Portlanders to wear face coverings outside if a distance of 6 feet could not be met.
As of Tuesday, Oregon has reported 15,139 total cases of COVID-19 and 269 deaths.