Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D.) is expected to reissue a statewide indoor mask mandate Wednesday as Covid-19 hospitalizations spike across the state, joining Louisiana as the only state to reissue mandates amid a surge of coronavirus cases linked to the infectious delta variant.
“Without new health and safety interventions in place,” Covid-19 hospitalizations will “far exceed Oregon’s health system capacity” within a matter of weeks, Brown said in a statement Tuesday.
Brown said the “science is clear” that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can spread the delta variant of Covid-19 and that “masks are a simple and effective way” of preventing that spread.
The indoor mandate, expected to be announced at a press conference Wednesday, will make Oregon the third state to require both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors.
Louisiana, which has the highest rates of Covid-19 in the country, became the first state to reimpose an indoor mask mandate for all residents in early August in an attempt to “slow” the spread of Covid-19 and rising hospitalizations.
Hawaii is the only state that never rescinded its indoor mask mandate, which remains in place.
Nevada has also reinstated its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status, though only in counties and cities with high transmission.
The delta variant is responsible for more than 80% of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. It is more infectious than other variants and more resistant to vaccines in widespread use—especially if not fully vaccinated—and is driving a rapid increase in cases throughout the country. While vaccination does not provide total protection against Covid-19 infection, it makes it less likely and protects against severe illness, hospitalization and death. Growing evidence suggests the variant is transmitted just as easily by vaccinated people as by unvaccinated people, motivating new CDC guidance and a flurry of local and business mask mandates to encourage people to wear them indoors regardless of vaccination status to slow down the virus.
A number of states—including Florida and Texas—have taken steps to prevent local authorities instituting mask mandates themselves. The states are overwhelmingly Republican and often among the states with the lowest vaccination rates in the country. The state-level bans have come under greater scrutiny as cases and hospitalizations soar and some schools and cities have defied the rules to implement their own mandates. Several lawsuits have been filed to challenge the bans and an Arkansas judge temporarily blocked the state’s ban after two parents sued the state.