PORTLAND, Ore. — Face masks will be required statewide for students in grades K-12 this fall, Gov. Kate Brown told KGW’s Cristin Severance in an interview Thursday morning.
Gov. Brown said face masks are the best way to keep kids safe and in school five days a week.
"The science and data are clear: the delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious," Brown said. "My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions. With many children still ineligible to be vaccinated, masks are an effective way to help keep our kids safe in the classroom, the learning environment we know serves them best."
KGW’s Cristin Severance sat down with the governor on Thursday to discuss COVID-19, face mask mandates, restrictions, and emergency response protocols ahead of this weekend’s upcoming heat wave.
Brown told Severance she is not supporting a statewide face mask mandate at this time, she does not believe a statewide mandate will encourage unvaccinated people to get the vaccine.
Statewide, 274 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, only 26 fewer than the state's previous benchmark for imposing restrictions like capacity limits and indoor dining bans.
When asked whether new statewide restrictions could be coming, Gov. Brown told Severance the state plans to emphasize a more local approach where counties and health agencies determine what's best for their communities.
Although, Brown is recommending both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated Oregonians wear masks indoors, per the recommendation from the Oregon Health Authority.
Gov. Brown told Severance she is considering mandating vaccines for state employees, like California and New York City have recently done.
When asked about Oregon’s law that prevents hospitals from mandating vaccines for their employees, Gov. Brown said she’s meeting with stakeholders this week to identify ways to improve vaccination rates among health care workers.
Gov. Brown is not ruling out a special session of the state legislature that could change the law and said everything is being considered at this time.
Washington is also requiring face masks for students this fall. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement on Wednesday.
The CDC announced on Tuesday it was reversing course on some of its masking guidance amid a surge of COVID-19 cases related to the delta variant.
Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Stay with KGW News for this developing story. More from this interview will be available soon.