Gov. Kate Brown strengthens mandates surrounding COVID-19

Starting Friday, all children age 5 and older must wear face coverings in public indoor space and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

ONTARIO — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday announced additional measures to try to slow spread of the novel coronavirsu COVID-19 around Oregon, including requiring younger children to wear face coverings. Under earlier requirements this was not required for children under 12, but starting Friday, “All children age 5 and older must wear face coverings in public indoor space and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

In addition Brown is lowering the size limits for indoor gatherings, from the current maximum of 250 people to 100. This also starts Friday, and include such places as larger restaurant, bars, community centers, houses of worship and movie theaters. The outdoor venue cap remains at 250.

The limit of 10 people for social get-togethers also remain in place.

The third change is that restaurant and bars will now be required to close at 10 p.m., instead of midnight.

“We know indoor gatherings pose a much higher risk than outdoors and larger groups can easily become super-spreads events if safer precautions are not followed, Brown said.

She cited the rate of spread by the virus across Oregon as reasons for the additional actions and that more could come.

“Keep in mind, this is not an on or off switch. This disease is something that, for the time being, we must learn to live with,” Brown said. “However, when we see numbers rise, we must reopens in turn. We must dim the lights. We must scale back, limit our interaction, take more precautions.”

On another front the governor said there are a number of cases that were the result of tourism and her office is talking with officials from neighboring states about the issue, and her staff and the Oregon Health Authority are looking for a process to restrict tourist travel into Oregon from state with high infections rates.

Brown’s one piece of good news is that residents of long-care term care facilities can start meeting with visitors — outdoors only — if their facility has no evidence of the virus.

Despite information coming from a Umatilla County official this morning, no official word has been given that Malheur County will be returning to Phase I of Oregon's reopening plan. 

Sarah Poe, County Health Department director, said in a follow-up phone call this afternoon that the Umatilla County Commissioner quoted in our article this morning "spoke out of turn" about Malheur County.

Conversations about the possibility have been taking place since the beginning of the week, Poe says, but there is nothing official in place at this time. 

During her press conference today, Gov. Kate Brown strengthened restrictions across the state, but indicated that specific news for counties on watch lists, including Malheur County, was expected to come in the next day or two.

Poe agrees that the restrictions Brown placed today, are essentially Phase 1 restrictions, but that does not mean we are in Phase 1.

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