Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to announce use of masks or face coverings in public indoor spaces n Aug. 11, after cases of Covid and Delta variant have increased statewide. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)

SALEM - Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to announce statewide indoor mask requirements tomorrow, in response to projections that Covid hospitalizations will exceed health system capacity in the state in the coming weeks.

Details about the new mandate will be released at a news conference she has scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 11. She already had imposed a mandate on all Oregon schools for students and staff to wear masks indoors.

The governor said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon that she also is requiring virtually all state employees to be vaccinated. Her new order won’t apply to those who work for the Legislature or the state court system.

The moves come following projections from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health & Science University that found without the measures, the state could be short up to 500 hospital beds by the end of September as the delta variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly through Oregon. 

“After a year and a half of this pandemic, I know Oregonians are tired of health and safety restrictions. This new mask requirement will not last forever, but it is a measure that can save lives right now,” Brown said in the statement. “It will help to protect all of us, including people who are immunocompromised, and our children under 12 who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated. Masks are a simple and effective tool that will keep our schools, businesses, and communities open.”

The governor said in her statement that all state of Oregon executive branch employees are required to be fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 18, or whenever a Covid vaccine gets approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever comes later. Those with a disability or “sincerely held religious belief” may qualify for an exception.

According to the announcement, the requirement applies to all employees working for Oregon state agencies and employees of independent state office at the Oregon State Treasury, the Secretary of State’s Office, the Bureau of Labor & Industries and the Department of Justice.”  

The announcement comes as Malheur County, too, faces a surge in Covid cases and cases of the Delta variant.

Malheur County saw several new Covid cases over the weekend, from Aug. 6 to Aug. 8, and reported a 20.4% test positivity rate, according to the Oregon Health Authority

Cases have been climbing each week in Malheur County. The OHA’s weekly reports show a nearly sixfold increase in the last month, from the July 11 count of 11 new cases to the most recent report of 63 new cases.

News tip? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]

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