Masks are mandatory all across Malheur County starting on Wednesday, a move that comes as the county posted a record number of new Covid cases.
State authorities are directing that everyone wear a mask when going indoors, including retailers, restaurants and office settings.
The masks aren’t required when people are exercising indoors or if there is a medical condition that makes a face covering a challenge.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the mandate on Monday as the number of infections continues to climb across Oregon.
Leaders across the country are now urging Americans to use masks, a concept that has proven controversial in Malheur County and throughout Oregon.
Vice President Mike Pence was the latest to urge covering up, wearing one to a briefing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday
Sen. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate majority leader, tweeted:” We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people. Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter.”
The governor is urging mask use to slow the spread and avoid any need to reverse course on opening businesses and institutions.
DOCUMENT: State mask guidance
In Malheur County, authorities reported 16 new cases on Tuesday – the most in any one day since the first infection was reported March 30. A second person is now hospitalized with the infection, a woman in her 70s, according to Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department director.
More troubling for Poe and other health officials is that the rate of infections being detected by testing continues to climb. About a week ago, about 4% of those tested were found positive – a rate higher than the state. On Tuesday, the rate of positive tests hit 7.9%, representing a steady climb in the past week.
Poe said that with expanded testing, authorities would have expected that rate to be going down.
County data shows that 124 people have been or are presumed infected with the virus based on testing. So far, 42 have recovered and four have been hospitalized and later released.
The health department is conducting another in a string of drive-through testing events. The event on Wednesday, July 1, goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds in Ontario. Results are provided to people a few days later.
The testing is available to those who have one of the symptoms or who are part of a vulnerable population.
DOCUMENT: Testing flier – Ontario
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