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Gov. Kate Brown announces mask requirements for many state agencies, customers

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an April 9 mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Portland. On Thursday, the governor extended Oregon's pandemic emergency declaration.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff/ OPB
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown at an April 9 mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Portland. On Thursday, the governor extended Oregon's pandemic emergency declaration.

Workers for state agencies will be required to wear face masks in any indoor workspace, as will visitors to those agencies, under guidance announced by Gov. Kate Brown on Friday.

The updated safety protocols will be enforced regardless of a person’s vaccination status, comes as new data suggests the delta variant of COVID-19 is as transmissible by vaccinated people as by those who have not received a shot.

“The science and data are clear: the Delta variant is spreading in our communities and is more contagious,” Brown said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This mask requirement will protect Oregonians, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the pandemic and who continue to provide essential services to Oregonians. We also must protect everyone—both agency employees and community members who visit state agencies for information, services, and resources.”

The new requirements apply only to employees of executive branch agencies, meaning that it’s possible visitors to the state Capitol, controlled by Legislature, or state courts will encounter different rules.

A fact sheet Brown’s office released said the new requirements will take effect immediately, and impact workers and visitors in virtually every indoor public state agency. Exceptions exist for workers who are alone in an enclosed space, or are eating and drinking. For members of the public interacting with agencies like Driver and Motor Vehicle Services or Oregon State Police, brief exceptions to the mask requirements are allowed if an agency needs to confirm someone’s identity, the guidance says.

Like many other areas of the country, Oregon in recent weeks has seen its number of new positive cases and hospitalizations surge, as the delta variant takes hold among unvaccinated populations. Despite that trend, Brown has been reticent to re-initiate business or gathering restrictions the state labored under for much of the past 15 months. The governor also has not announced any vaccine requirements for state workers similar to a step President Joe Biden took with federal employees Thursday and that the state of California has also implemented..

Asked whether any such steps are in the works, the governor’s office did not immediately answer on Friday. The office told The Oregonian/OregonLive earlier this week Brown was still considering her options.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for OPB. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.