File photo: Chas Hundley
Oregon Governor Kate Brown will reinstate an indoor mask mandate for the entire state, the governor's office announced Tuesday afternoon. The governor will also require state employees to become vaccinated, with exceptions only for medical reasons or religious beliefs.
Additional details are expected to come during a press conference to be held Wednesday.
“Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations––consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals––that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown said in a press release. “When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care––whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision, or a variety of other emergency situations. If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority said that 635 people were hospitalized across the state with COVID-19, an increase of 60 people from the previous day.
It’s the highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“The number of hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients has surpassed the previous pandemic high set back in November. This is alarming and an urgent call to action if you have not yet been vaccinated,” said Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen. “All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 and to keep the virus from spreading among our loved ones, our friends and neighbors and our communities.”
New modeling released by Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) projects that Oregon’s health system capacity will be overwhelmed in the next several weeks unless steps are taken to reduce the spread and severity of the disease.
“By Labor Day, OHSU predicts that the state will be short 400-500 needed staffed hospital beds. This means that some Oregonians will not be able to get hospital care for COVID-19 or any other condition,” OHSU said in a statement.
“Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations––consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals––that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown said “When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care––whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision, or a variety of other emergency situations. If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.
“There are two keys to saving lives. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. And, by wearing masks, all of us––vaccinated and unvaccinated––can help ensure that a hospital bed staffed by health professionals is available for our loved ones in their time of need. If we all do our part, we can beat COVID-19 once and for all, keep our economy open and thriving, and return our kids to the classroom with minimal disruptions in a few weeks.”
Brown also announced that on or before October 18, or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever of the two is later, all state employees will be required to get a vaccine, with few exceptions.
Those unable to be vaccinated because of a disability or what the governor’s office called a “sincerely held religious belief” may qualify for an exemption.
Unlike hospital workers, there will be no testing options for those who do not wish to become vaccinated.
“Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are the surest way to prevent Oregonians from ending up in intensive care units,” said Brown. “I am taking action to help ensure State of Oregon workplaces are safe for employees and customers alike, and I am strongly encouraging all public and private employers to follow suit by requiring vaccination for their employees. The only way we can stop the spread of COVID-19 for good is through vaccination.”