Says no arrests or tickets for no mask, but her order 'is enforceable'
SALEM, Ore. (AP/KTVZ) — Beginning next Wednesday, Oregonians in some of the state’s most populous counties will be required to wear face masks when they are in public indoor spaces, such as grocery stores and shops, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The new face covering mandate pertains to residents in Clackamas, Hood River, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties.
Although the new requirement is set to go into effect in less than a week, it remains unclear what repercussions people face if they do not follow it.
Gov. Kate Brown said at a news conference Thursday people won't be ticketed or arrested for not wearing masks.
"No, it doesn't mean you have to wear one while eating at a bar or restaurant," Brown said. "And no, you won't get arrested or get a ticket for not wearing a face covering."
"However," she added, "This is a requirement, and it is enforceable."
Brown said the seven counties were chosen based on population density, the spread of coronavirus and the vulnerability of the communities.
Brown said the state will work with community groups to make free face coverings available for those who need them.
The governor said the "next few weeks will be difficult" and returned to a familiar analogy from recent months, about how the Portland area will be "stepping out onto the ice."
But she said the state is "much better prepared" for any further uptick in cases than it was when the pandemic hit in early March, with much more personal protective gear, testing and contact tracing.
However, Brown said, "If hospitalizations spike too quickly, or the capacity of the health care system is threatened, we will be forced to revert to tighter restrictions."
"It comes down to me. It comes down to you," she said. "It comes down to each and every one of us. … Stay safe, to stay open."
As for the outbreak in northeast Oregon's Union County, where commissioners have recommended rolling back from Phase 2 to Phase 1 restrictions, Brown applauded the actions, and said if the county wants the state to require face masks, "I will."