Heading into public areas? Don’t forget your mask

These masks were dropped off at The Argus Observer office on Monday by Sarah Poe, director of the Malheur County Health Department. Using cloth, paper or disposable face coverings in public as part of the guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority regarding reopening during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

ONTARIO — Malheur County is of one of eight counties put on a state watch list for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 as the number of cases across Oregon continue to rise “to alarming levels.”

Other counties on the list are Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wasco.

“The spread COVID-19 in these counties has risen to alarming levels in recent weeks,” reads a news release from the Gov. Kate Brown’s office this afternoon. “Analysis by the Oregon Health Authority showed alarmingly high per capita rates of case increases and community spread.”

Counties on the watch list will be closely monitored while the Oregon Health Authority and local officials increase capacity to control spread of the disease. If these counties do not see quick downturn, more restrictive measures, such as business closures or tighter gathering size limit could be put in place, according to the news release.

Because of rising COVID-19 infections, including 375 cases on Thursday, Brown on Friday, announced increased enforcement of face covering, physical distancing and occupancy standards inside businesses, reads the release.

“I am asking Oregonians this holiday weekend to take urgent steps to stop the spread of COVOD-19 by wearing face coverings, avoiding larger gatherings and physically distancing,” said Brown in a statement. “And state enforcement agencies will be out in force to ensure businesses are in compliance.”

Those are not in compliance will face stiff penalties, she added.

Oregon Liquor Control Commission and Oregon Occupation Health and Safety Administration staff will be conducting spot checks around the state during to ensure compliance at restaurants, bars, and other businesses, to make sure patrons are wearing face coverings where required, complying with state alcohol laws and OLCC rules.

“We stand at a crossroads this weekend — we can either stop the spread of COVID-19, or infections and hospitalizations will rise across Oregon and I will reinstate restrictive measures in impacted counties and businesses sectors.”

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