OREGON, USA — Major events that draw thousands of people are pushing ahead during Oregon's COVID-19 delta variant surge.
The Hood to Coast relay is one of them. The event involves about 13,000 people who run in stints and trade off with teammates. Teams were staggered Friday, departing every few minutes from Timberline Lodge. They will run through Portland and finish the relay in Seaside.
Last year, the event was virtual because of the pandemic.
"I'm just really happy that the race is going on," participant Shawn Bowman said.
Relay organizers are following Oregon's renewed mask mandate, which now includes outdoor events where people cannot adequately distance. That means most people can go without a mask as they run, but bystanders and teammates are being asked to wear masks at start and finish lines and at relay exchange points.
"Do what you have to do," Bowman said.
Another participant, Jennifer Holcomb, said she's not concerned at all since she's sticking with her team.
"We all train together every single day," Holcomb said.
Teammate Angela Harris noted they all prepared, too.
"Everybody took a COVID test before we came," Harris said. "Riding in the van is definitely not a concern for anybody."
The relay raises money for cancer research. Organizers coordinated with Albertsons/Safeway to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations at the end of the event in Seaside.
The Oregon State Fair is doing something similar, offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics in partnership with Salem Health and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
Fair organizers expect about 300,000 people over the event's 11-day span. They hope to reduce the risk of a superspreader event by enforcing mask mandates.
"Take the politics out of it, let's focus on health," fair spokesperson Dave Thompson said.
Oregon State Police will be there, but not to enforce the mandate. Thompson said fair staff will.
"If it turns out to be a confrontation, then we can ask people to leave," he said.