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Oregon’s COVID-19 mask requirements expand for kids

Starting Friday, children 5 and older will be required to wear masks in public indoor spaces, and in outdoor spaces where physical distancing isn’t possible.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday announced changes in state rules and guidelines around COVID-19.

“We must scale back, limit our interactions, take more precautions,” said Brown during a news conference.

One expanded guideline she shared involved kids. Beginning Friday, children 5 and older will be required to wear face coverings “to protect themselves and others,” said Brown. Previously, children twelve and older were required to wear masks in public. The mandate will apply to all indoor public spaces. It will also apply to outside public spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

Brown said the state would keep its recommendation—not requirement—for kids ages 2 to 5 to also wear masks.

“We really have to be cautious,” said mother, Uriah McClendon, who has a 3-year-old boy. “Trying to get him to wear a mask is pretty difficult—it's difficult as an adult to keep the mask where you need it to be!”

Getting younger kids to wear a mask poses some obvious challenges, so state health officials offered some suggestions including:

  • Letting your child choose and decorate their mask.
  • Trying different mask styles to see which is most comfortable.
  • Putting a mask on a favorite stuffed toy, or drawing one on a book character.
  • Introducing the mask when everyone is relaxed but not too sleepy.
  • Pointing out other people who are wearing masks, while you're out.

Madeleine Allen is a teacher at Marysville K-8 school in Southeast Portland. She recommended that parents not wait to teach their kids about wearing masks.

“Parents should definitely start now getting kids familiar with wearing masks,” said Allen. “Start with 15-20 minutes and just build up, incrementally.”

Allen said she believes the mask mandate for kids is a good start, but she said the way things stand, it’s not enough to ensure a safe in-person learning environment.

“There is no acceptable number of teachers or students getting sick with COVID-19 at school that would make reopening worth it,” said Allen.

For now, parents like Uriah McClendon will keep doing their best to follow the rules, both old and new.

“I don't really know if it's going to work,” said McClendon, “but I bet that it's going to help.”

RELATED: Gov. Brown announces new age requirements for face masks, group size limits in Oregon

Current phase map for Oregon

RELATED: Masks outdoors: Expert says wear them unless you're 15-20 feet away from people

WATCH: Oregon teachers call for 14 days of no new COVID cases before schools reopen 

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