Gov. Kate Brown announces new state restrictions in a news conference in Portland on Thursday, March 12. (Jonathan House/Pamplin Media)

Gov. Kate Brown is imposing new statewide Covid restrictions, including requiring children to wear masks and lowering gathering size limits amid rapid spread of the virus throughout the state.

She also said she is considering restrictions on tourism that include a quarantine requirement for those coming from out of state.

At a Wednesday press conference, Brown announced that her changes to Oregon’s rules and guidelines on Covid will go into effect Friday, July 24.

One of the new restrictions requires children age 5 and over to wear masks in public, indoor spaces and outside when social distancing can’t be maintained, which will extend to kids returning to school in the fall.

Previous exceptions to the mask mandate, such as in gyms, have been removed and masks must be worn.

The Oregon Department of Education announced updates to its “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance addressing the new mask requirement. According to a press release from the department, it will be distributing five million face coverings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to school districts for students and staff “over the next few weeks.”

The governor also lowered the gathering size limits for indoor venues like larger restaurants, bars, community centers, churches, movie theaters and gyms from a maximum of 250 people to 100, but the outdoor venue maximum will remain at 250 people.

However, the Malheur County Court imposed new local limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings July 15, banning groups of 10 or more to gather indoors and groups of 25 or more to gather outdoors — down from 100.

Bars and restaurants for counties in Phase 2, which Malheur County moved into on June 6, are allowed to serve food and drinks until midnight, but the governor is requiring them to close at 10 p.m.

Brown said she will be taking action to restrict tourist travel into Oregon from states that are Covid hotspots “soon” and could require mandatory quarantine for people who come from these areas.

In the “next couple of days,” Brown said the state also will be updating what counties are on the state’s Watch List, which consists of counties that have high rates of community spread.

Malheur County was put on the list July 3, but since, cases have continued to soar. As of Tuesday, the Malheur County Health Department reported 528 Covid cases, six deaths and a test positivity rate of 16.5%.

“Several counties on the watch list continue to experience very rapid spread of the disease, while others may be in a position to be taken off the list because they’re seeing fewer sporadic cases and fewer cases overall and at the peak of their local outbreaks,” said Brown.

The new restrictions come as Covid “is continuing to spread too quickly across Oregon,” Brown said.

“Oregon, we ventured out onto the ice together, and that ice has begun to crack,” said Brown. “Before we fall through the ice, we need to take additional steps to protect ourselves and our communities.”

Brown also announced some “good news” — that the state is beginning to allow outdoor visits with people at long-term care facilities that have no reported cases or evidence of a Covid outbreak.

News tip? Contact reporter Bailey Lewis at [email protected]

KEEP THE ENTERPRISE GOING AS OTHERS CLOSE.....

Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE - $5 a month, automatically. DONATE - to provide additional support.