Doing What’s Right


As more states push to fully open, Oregon tightens restrictions and issues indefinite mask mandate

Oregon mask mandate
Posted at 2:49 PM, May 03, 2021

As states try to balance the line between personal freedom and safety, 17 states have moved to lift all of their mask mandates in an effort to return to normal, while four states only require masks for certain industry employees.

But as those states move to open more businesses, Oregon is moving in the other direction. On Friday, it raised its COVID-19 security level in 15 counties from high to extreme, its highest level. The measures include no indoor dining, limited outdoor capacity at bars and restaurants, and an indefinite mask mandate that would require people to wear them until the state decides otherwise.

According to CDC and statewide data, Oregon is 14th in the U.S. with an average of 19 new daily cases per 100,000 people, but it ranks first in trends because its numbers are rising the fastest. Their daily cases are up 38% compared to two weeks ago.

States like Michigan (-41%), Florida (-15%), and Texas (-9%), which have lifted most of their mandates, have all seen their numbers trend downward, even if some of their daily case counts per 100,000 people are higher.

“We started the process of permanent rulemaking as soon as we adopted the temporary rule,” said Michael Wood, Oregon’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s administrator.

Wood says there has been no pressure to follow other states that have lifted mandates restricting business.

“We believe that following those really pretty reasonable and unintrusive precautions can help make sure that the state can open up,” he said.

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, says she is optimistic the state would be able to get ahead of the virus in the next few weeks, saying she hopes the state will be able to lift restrictions by the end of June.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Gov. Kate Brown as Kim Brown. The story has been updated to reflect this correction.