SALEM, Ore. (AP) — 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.
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.
“No, you won’t get arrested or get a ticket for not wearing a face covering,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said at a press conference Thursday. “However, this is a requirement and it is enforceable.”
The new face covering mandate pertains to residents in Clackamas, Hood River, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties.
The seven counties were chosen based on population density, the spread of coronavirus and the vulnerability of the communities, Brown said.
However, any county not listed under this new face covering requirement may request to opt in at any time.
“As we learn more about the disease, evidence continues to mount that face coverings play a critical role in reducing transmission,” Brown said. “As we adapt with this disease, for the foreseeable future, face coverings need to become part of our daily lives.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
,Certain people will be exempt from having to wear a face mask, including children that are 12 or younger or someone with medical conditions where wearing a face covering hinders their ability to breath.
Officials said stores will be allowed to refuse entry if someone is not complying with the mandate.
However, when asked what law enforcement can do if someone refuses to wear mask, the governor replied that “all of my executive orders are enforceable by an active law,” but did not provide any more details.
The governor reiterated that face coverings do not need to be medical grade, but rather can be sewn at home or as simple as wearing a bandanna.
The state is also working with counties to make face masks available for free as needed.
“I wear (a face mask) because I don’t want to accidentally kill someone. It’s really that simple,” Brown said. “Face coverings can save lives.”
The new mandate comes as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state.
As of Thursday, the total number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Oregon is 6,366. In addition, four more people died from the disease, raising the state’s death toll to 187.
More guidance about the new face covering requirement will be released next week, officials said.