Eli Morcom works intently to color a baseball hat at the Drexel H. Foundation's annual Art Camp in Vale on Tuesday, Aug. 10. (AUSTIN JOHNSON/The Enterprise)

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Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced a new requirement for masks at outdoor gatherings starting Friday, Aug. 27.

She is requiring people wear face masks in outdoor public settings and events where physical distancing isn’t possible.

The announcement follows the statewide indoor mask mandate from earlier this month that applies to all public indoor settings. Last week, Brown announced that all public school employees and health care workers were required to get vaccinated.

“The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants we’ve seen, and it has dramatically increased the amount of virus in our communities. Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight COVID and protect one another,” said Brown in today’s statement.

The requirement comes as Malheur County faces a surge in Covid cases, including 24 new cases reported on Monday, Aug. 23 according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The governor has emphasized the need to manage hospital beds throughout the state, which are filling up with Covid cases.

As of Monday, the state reported five beds available in intensive care units throughout the region and 44 out of 127 other beds. The region includes Malheur, Baker, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties.

“It is much easier for people with the Delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” said State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “This is because they have one thousand times more virus in their nose – which means that those around them are much more likely to get sick because this variant behaves so differently.”

Sidelinger said that there have been clusters of cases following large outdoor events, such as music festivals.

There are several exceptions to the rule, including for children under 5. Activities such as eating, playing sports and performing are also exempt from the requirement.

Local schools will continue to follow the previous guidance, which states that children are not required to wear masks outdoors during school.

The announcement also included a recommendation for the Oregon Health Authority for physical distancing and masking at private gatherings between different households.

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

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