Aug 11, 2021

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript: Indoor Mask Mandate

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript: Indoor Mask Mandate
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsOregon Gov. Kate Brown COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript: Indoor Mask Mandate

Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave a COVID-19 press conference on August 11, 2021. She announced an indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Read the full coronavirus news briefing speech here.

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Governor Brown: (00:00)
We’re here to give an update on COVID 19 in Oregon. I’m joined by Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist, and Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority. Let me start with the numbers because they are shocking. Yesterday we had over 2300 cases reported, the highest number since the virus first landed in Oregon. Hospitalizations are also at a record high. Across the state our ICU beds are about 90% filled. Some of our hospital regions have fewer than five ICU beds available to start the day. These numbers are because of the Delta variant. These numbers are despite the fact that nearly 73% of Oregon’s adults are vaccinated. The harsh reality is that Delta is a different virus. It has changed everything. Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Health and Science University project that without new safety interventions, COVID-19 hospitalizations will completely overwhelm our doctors and nurses in the coming weeks. Without safety measures, we could be as many as 500 staffed hospital beds short of what we need to treat patients by September, and that’s patients coming into the hospital for any reason; COVID, a heart attack or a car accident.

Governor Brown: (01:41)
When hospitals run out of beds, we are all at risk. Our families are at risk. Throughout the pandemic we have learned that quick and decisive action saves lives. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family from this deadly virus. We continue to work to reach Oregonians with information and a vaccine, but it’s clear the current situation requires immediate action to stop the Delta variant from spreading further. That’s why moving forward for the immediate future, masks will be required in all indoor public settings effective this Friday, August 13th. The latest science is clear that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are able to spread the Delta variant. Masks are simple and they are effective. Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others. Masks are also our best bet at keeping our schools and our businesses open.

Governor Brown: (02:55)
I know Oregonians are tired of wearing masks. I certainly am too, but every time someone wears a mask, that’s one more unvaccinated kid we’re protecting. That mask could keep your best friend or loved one out of the hospital. Masks show our support for doctors and nurses who are working so incredibly hard right now. Let’s show our frontline healthcare workers that while they’re working to save lives, we are willing to do something simple, like putting a mask on. OHA and OHS use modeling is a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over. It’s a disappointing reminder that we still have dark days ahead. Until more people get vaccinated, we are all still in danger. And because vaccines are the key to getting out of this pandemic once and for all, I also announced yesterday that I’m requiring all State of Oregon executive branch workers to be fully vaccinated on or before October 18th or six weeks after COVID vaccine receives a full FDA approval. This action will ensure our state government workplaces are safe for employees and the Oregonians we serve.

Governor Brown: (04:28)
I strongly encourage our public and private employers to follow suit and require vaccination for their employees. Vaccines are now universally available and free. The facts are very clear that unvaccinated Oregonians are the majority of patients in our ICUs. Unvaccinated Oregonians are the overwhelming majority of COVID deaths right now. You do not need to die from COVID. Trust that the vaccines are the best way to keep you out of the hospital. I can’t say that enough.

Governor Brown: (05:08)
I want to end today with an important reminder. Another heat wave is coming with triple digit temperatures starting as soon as today. I’ve declared a state of emergency before extreme heat through August 20th, to ensure our resources are available to all levels of government to keep Oregonians safe and healthy through the coming days. Please treat these hot temperatures seriously. Heat-related illnesses are preventable. Please learn the symptoms. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, make a plan right now to find a cool location you can access.

Governor Brown: (05:52)
And this is my call to action for all Oregonians. We need your help. We need your help to protect our most vulnerable. Please check in on your grandparents, vulnerable neighbors and friends. Help them make a plan to get to a cooling center. Remind them that 211 is great resource for information. Unfortunately, the high temperatures will also intensify wildfire conditions. With extreme fire danger across much of the state wildfires can start easily and spread quickly. And with so many fires already burning, resources are stretched and our firefighters are exhausted. I urge everyone to do their part to prevent new fires from starting and to keep our communities safe. And now I will turn it over to Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

Dean Sidelinger: (06:49)
Thank you. Governor Brown. The COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon has not reached a dire stage. Daily infections and hospitalizations have reached new pandemic highs in recent days. Oregonians sick with COVID, nearly all of them unvaccinated, are on the verge of overfilling our hospital beds, posing a critical threat to all Oregonians in need of hospital care. This onslaught of new cases and virus-related hospitalizations is far outpacing even the grim scenarios projected in our most recent modeling report. The report estimated that we could expect about 1170 daily cases and 95 new hospitalized Oregonians per day by the end of next week. Reported new cases have exceeded that projection three times just in the last five days. The unrelenting Delta variant is sweeping through our communities and there are no immediate signs that this rising tide will subside anytime soon, unless we act immediately to reverse this dangerous trend. So my plea today is to every Oregonian who has not yet been vaccinated, the COVID-19 vaccine is saving lives. We can bring the surge under control by vaccinating as many people as possible.

Dean Sidelinger: (08:09)
The data in Oregon reaffirms what the science has long supported, just how incredibly effective all three of the available vaccines are in preventing severe COVID-19 infections leading to hospitalization. The Delta variant now accounts for almost every newly reported COVID-19 case. It is three times more infectious than previous mutations of the virus and it is now the dominant virus circulating in Oregon and across our country. If you are unvaccinated, the risk of being sickened by the virus or ending up seriously ill or even dying from COVID-19 has never been greater. I’ve spoken before about two pandemics that are currently imploding in Oregon. Let’s examine how counties with vaccination rates above 60% are faring as opposed to counties with lower vaccination rates. This slide shows that as vaccinations increased, hospitalization rates grows more slowly in counties with high vaccination rates. We can see the opposite in those counties with lower vaccination rates. A much steeper rise in hospitalization rates occurred in these counties. Vaccines are preventing serious disease and they’re saving lives.

Dean Sidelinger: (09:26)
The evidence is overwhelming. Vaccine and vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against COVID- 19 and to keep the virus from spreading amongst our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, and across our communities. 18 months ago, we reported the first case of COVID-19 in Oregon. Today, more than two and a half million Oregonians have had at least a first dose of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, including 2.3 million Oregonians who have completed their vaccine series.

Dean Sidelinger: (09:58)
To all of you who have taken the time and effort to get the vaccine, thank you. Your actions have saved the lives of your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues, and your neighbors. Now we have reached yet another crossroads. Our actions over the next several weeks will be critical to ensuring that our hospitals have enough capacity to meet the needs of all patients needing care. For those eligible and not yet vaccinated, reach out and get your questions answered and make a plan to get your shot. Several times throughout the course of this pandemic, Oregonians stepped up collectively to turn back the surging tide.

Dean Sidelinger: (10:37)
We have the chance to do it again. The governor’s announcement today requiring the mask wearing in public indoor settings is an important step. The use of face masks provides significant protection of people who are unvaccinated as well as providing additional protection against the small risk of infection that exists for vaccinated people. They protect the person wearing the mask, as well as those around them. When we all wear a mask indoors in public, we will slow the spread we are currently seeing that threatens to overtop our hospital capacity, thus ensuring we all have access to the quality care we deserve. I urge everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to please follow this important public health recommendation. We have the power to crush this virus, like getting vaccinated and wearing our masks. Let’s work together now to ensure that we can return to the progress Oregon made in fighting back previous surges. Let’s keep our students safely in school in front of talented teachers and look forward to celebrating the fall and winter holidays in 2021, a lot more like 2019 and not like 2020. Now I’ll turn things back over to Governor Brown.

Governor Brown: (11:51)
Thank you, Dr. Sidelinger. Really appreciate your expertise. Next up is director Patrick Allen of the Oregon Health Authority.

Dean Sidelinger: (11:59)
Thank you, Governor Brown. Oregon hospitals are-

Gov. Kate Brown: (12:03)
[inaudible 00:12:00].

Dean Sidelinger: (12:03)
Thank you Governor Brown. Oregon hospitals are facing a crisis that threatens to eclipse the most severe bed shortages they’ve faced at any point in the pandemic. I want to talk about the steps that the Oregon Health Authority is taking to help our hospitals keep from being swamped in this latest surge. The highly contagious Delta variant is filling hospitals across the state with record levels of COVID-19 patients. On July 1st there were 134 COVID-19 patients in Oregon hospitals, and 27 were in intensive care. Yesterday, the population of hospitalized COVID patients set a new pandemic record of 635 hospitalizations, a staggering 373% increase. Over the same six-week period, COVID related intensive care unit admissions have increased by more than 500%.

Dean Sidelinger: (12:50)
Today, Oregon hospitals reported that there were 665 patients hospitalized with COVID, and 172 of them were in intensive care. Those totals just broke the record that hospitals set just yesterday. Every hospital region in the state is experiencing escalating capacity constraints and strains on staffed beds and specialized equipment. Discharges are slowing to a standstill across hospital regions. And as you heard the governor and Dr. Sidelinger describe, the coming weeks will get worse if we don’t take immediate action. The crisis facing our hospitals stems from a crisis in our communities. COVID-19 is spreading uncontrollably among people who are unvaccinated. Yesterday, Oregon reported 2,329 new cases, the highest daily case total since the pandemic started.

Dean Sidelinger: (13:40)
The surge in cases is sending more people to the hospital, including younger people who represent a growing percentage of people whose cases are so severe they require a hospital admission. And because the Delta variant appears to make people sicker, on average, patients are having to stay in the hospital longer. Overcrowded hospitals have consequences for the lives of every single one of us, young or old vaccinated or unvaccinated. Across Oregon many hospitals have been forced to postpone procedures because COVID-19 has filled so many beds with severely ill patients that they don’t have staff to perform procedures that people need, but hospitals can safely delay. The people living each day in pain with limited mobility or a need for a diagnosis, they’ll have to wait longer for a back procedure, knee replacement, or a diagnostic procedure to ease their discomfort, restore quality of life, or give them peace of mind.

Dean Sidelinger: (14:34)
It also means hospitals packed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients have fewer intensive care beds and staff to treat people who have heart attacks, are hurt in accidents, or face other grave medical emergencies. None of us expect we’ll want an ICU bed today, but we all expect them to be there if we, our kid, their kids, or other family members need one. Today those beds are much harder to come by and will grow even more scarce if we don’t stop the flood of COVID 19 cases. Overcrowded hospitals also mean overwhelmed, overtaxed, and overstressed medical staff. Staff who are exposed to more and more COVID cases face greater risk of breakthrough infections, staff illness and strain compound critical staffing shortages for all patients.

Dean Sidelinger: (15:21)
The Oregon Health Authority is working closely with hospital administrators to support frontline nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff. Here are some of the steps we’re taking to help. We’re mobilizing nurse crisis teams to help hospitals facing the greatest demand. We’re working with hospitals to maintain and expand patient care workforces where possible so hospitals can operate more beds. We’re working with the Oregon Department of Human Services and long-term care facilities to move people who can be placed into community-based care facilities to free up scarce hospital beds. We’re helping facilitate hospitals working together to ensure respiratory equipment can be repositioned around the state to help facilities facing the most critical need for life-saving interventions.

Dean Sidelinger: (16:04)
We’re addressing funding issues that affect staffing and bed capacity, such as streamlining Medicaid coverage for eligible patients. These actions can help hospitals weather the storm, but they won’t stop it. The only actions that will stem this fifth and most threatening wave of COVID-19 infections are actions that stop transmission. Wear a mask indoors, and most important of all, get vaccinated. In Oregon nearly 73% of adult Oregonians have been vaccinated with at least one dose. Nearly 62% of our total population has received at least one shot. Almost 57% of Oregonians are fully vaccinated. Oregon continues to outpace the national averages for first and second doses. We continue to rank 12th in the country for the percentage of fully vaccinated people.

Dean Sidelinger: (16:51)
More and more Oregonians are getting vaccinated each day. The number of new people getting vaccinated each day is rising. On August 5th, the number of people who received a first dose was 4,333. Just two weeks earlier it was 2,433. That’s a 44% increase over those two weeks. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen some of our largest percentage increases in counties such as Jefferson and Umatilla, which have been trailing in vaccination rates. But in the face of the Delta variant we need more people to get vaccinated now. As you’ve heard, the Delta variant poses an unprecedented threat because it’s more contagious and more severe. Unvaccinated adults and children are highly vulnerable to catching the Delta variant, getting sick from it, and spreading it.

Dean Sidelinger: (17:39)
If you haven’t made the choice to get vaccinated yet, Delta is the game changer that gives you a reason to reconsider. Haven’t been able to find time to get a shot? Get vaccinated before the Delta variant finds you. Worried about side effects? About [inaudible 00:17:54] people experience passing side effects from the vaccine, but getting sick or hospitalized with the Delta variant lasts much longer than the side effects, and the symptoms can be severe. Some people have questions about long-term effects from the vaccines. Over the past nine months, nearly 200 million Americans and more than 2.5 million Oregonians have received at least one dose of vaccine. The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective for hundreds of millions of people with no evidence of longer-term effects.

Dean Sidelinger: (18:22)
The federal government is preparing to grant full approval to the first of the vaccines this fall. Think your immune system is healthy and strong enough to fight off the Delta variant? Your immune system, no matter how tough, can’t fight a pathogen it can’t recognize. The vaccines equip your immune system with the tools it needs to fight Delta. It’s natural to have questions. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you and others around you, such as younger kids, are protected from COVID-19. For more information about vaccine safety, effectiveness, and availability, go to Now I’ll turn it back over to you Governor Brown.

Gov. Kate Brown: (19:06)
Thank you Director Allen. With that, Charles, we’re ready to take questions.

Dean Sidelinger: (19:11)
Thank you governor. We’ll get started with Kellee Azar with KATU. Go ahead Kellee.

Kellee Azar: (19:20)
Thank you for taking the time today, all of you. We really appreciate it. I have two questions, if you will. Governor, the first one is for you. You said on Monday when Multnomah County announced that they were going to do their own mask mandate that you had heard from counties that they wanted it left up to their individual counties. Not 24 hours later, you made a big pivot and decided to make this an entire state decision. What changed? What was the reasoning for that? Then my second question, if you’ll allow me, looking back hindsight is always 2020. Did we reopen too soon and take the mask mandates away too soon, now putting us in a worse situation than we’ve been in since the start of this pandemic?

Gov. Kate Brown: (20:08)
I’ll respond to your last question first. Did we reopen too soon? No. Delta has changed everything. As you heard from Dr. Sidelinger, and doctors across the country, and healthcare providers across the country, this variant is three times more contagious, it is more severe, and it is spreading particularly through our vulnerable populations very rapidly. In terms of local control, following our reopening, I’d hoped that we could move to a more traditional public health model where local elected officials would make decisions based on information from their local health care providers and their local public health.

Gov. Kate Brown: (20:55)
What was really, really clear after my meeting with county commissioners last week, and despite pleas from hospital CEOs and local public health authorities, is that for the most part local elected officials were not willing to make the tough decisions, and I needed to make a decision to preserve our hospital bed capacity and ensure that we have adequate staffing to take care of people who need emergent care. We want to make sure that folks who have a heart attack, or are in a car accident, or if we have a firefighter who’s severely injured, that those folks can access medical care, so that is why I am taking this action today.

Dean Sidelinger: (21:45)
Thank you, Kellee. We’ll go next to Lisa Balick with KOIN. Go ahead, Lisa.

Governor Brown: (21:51)
Thank you. Governor, if the mask requirement doesn’t make a difference in the numbers, and if hundreds of thousands of Oregonians are still refusing after eight months to get a vaccine, at what point would you consider requiring vaccine proof to enter public places like restaurants, entertainment venues?

Gov. Kate Brown: (22:13)
Lisa, what we do know is that particularly this variant makes its own timeline. And what we also know is that if we can get 80% compliance with this mask requirement, that we are likely to reduce the number of additional hospital beds that we need. We can literally cut that number in half, from 500 to 250. We also know that Oregonians are continuing to access vaccines, and as you’re well aware, I am requiring all of our state public employees to get those vaccines. So at this point in time, we are not moving forward on some type of vaccine verification. But like I’m saying, at this point in time.

Governor Brown: (23:08)
One follow-up. Would you consider restrictions back in place then at some point if the numbers don’t go down and the hospitalizations keep going up?

Gov. Kate Brown: (23:18)
Lisa, my goal is to get kids back into the classroom on a full-time basis and keep them safe, and to keep our businesses open around the entire state. As you know, our small businesses are the heart and soul of Oregon’s economy, and I’m absolutely committed to keeping these businesses open as long as we can do so safely. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and I will take the actions that I need to to keep Oregonians safe, healthy, and alive, and make sure that we have adequate hospital capacity. I do know this though, I know in a number of communities around the state-

Gov. Kate Brown: (24:02)
Well, I know in a number of communities around the state, restaurants and local businesses are banding together and coming up with their own vaccine verification programs. I really applaud these efforts. That tells me they want to keep their businesses open, they want to keep their employees safe, and they want to welcome customers and protect them.

Lisa: (24:24)
Thank you.

Dean Sidelinger: (24:25)
Thank you, Lisa. We’ll go next to Rachel Alexander with the Salem Reporter. Go ahead, Rachel.

Rachel Alexander: (24:32)
Hi. Thank you. Governor Brown, you’ve repeatedly spoken about the need to keep schools open and safe for students, particularly for students under 12, who can’t get vaccinated against COVID. Do you intend to mandate vaccinations for Oregon teachers and educators, and why or why not?

Gov. Kate Brown: (24:49)
So at this point in time, we are moving forward with the requirement that state public employees get vaccinated. That is the workforce that I have the ability to require these employees to get vaccinated, and local superintendents need to make that decision. That is in their very capable hands.

Dean Sidelinger: (25:15)
Thank you, Rachel. We’ll go next to Erin Ross with OPB. Go ahead, Erin.

Governor Brown: (25:23)
Hi. I have two questions. The first is for Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger, which I think you kind of addressed a little bit, Governor Brown, which is that will this mandate be enough? Given the amount of transmission that’s already baked in and the amount of additional beds that we’ll need, do you expect that this will stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed, or do you expect that we’re still going to be … What is it? 250 beds over our capacities.

Gov. Kate Brown: (25:52)
So I’ll turn this over to Dr. Sidelinger and Director Allen.

Dr. Sidelinger: (25:58)
Thank you. I think we need people to comply. As Governor Brown stated, if we can get high compliance with this new mask requirement as people get in line to get their vaccines, we can reduce the need for more hospital beds by half. That’s not an easy task, and it will be tough times ahead for our healthcare systems, our hospital workers, nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and others. But if we can cut that deficit in half, we have tools that we can do to try and get patients discharged who no longer need to be in the hospital, move equipment around to best meet the needs so that every Oregonian can get the quality care they deserve other than COVID who are suffering from a heart attack or were in a bad motor vehicle crash.

Dr. Sidelinger: (26:45)
No, it won’t be easy. Yes, the times will be tough, and there will be a lot of movement of patients around the state so that they can get the care that they deserve. But we need all Oregonians to help in this effort. This is not a governor action alone, a public health officer action alone, or a hospital CEO action or nurse action. This is every Oregonian who’s not yet vaccinated and eligible for vaccines making a plan. This is every Oregonian when they’re in an indoor public place putting on their mask to protect themselves and protect those around them. With that, we can slow this tremendous rise. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Dr. Sidelinger: (27:27)
Oregonians have done this again very dramatically around Thanksgiving, when we were near a point where we were very worried about hospital capacity. Oregonians came together. They changed their activities. They took precautions, and I know we’ll do it again. That’s the Oregon way, and it’s the only way we’re going to get through this without it being even worse than it is right now.

Director Allen: (27:51)
I don’t have anything to add to that.

Governor Brown: (27:54)
Governor Brown, I asked you in your last press conference about being proactive and keeping a mandate in place to prevent the spread of the Delta variants versus being reactive and implementing measures once we had a surge. At that time, Delta was already in Oregon. We were already aware of how contagious it was, and there was ample evidence from other countries that the Delta variant can spread like crazy, even if the community is heavily vaccinated, like we saw in Israel. So I want to ask you again now, do you regret the decision to be reactive and to lift the mask mandate at the time? Because the Delta variant was circulating very low in Oregon, and masks and the mandates were keeping it down. It was as soon as the mandates were lifted that we saw this virus start to take off.

Gov. Kate Brown: (28:35)
Look, at that point in time, in terms of the pandemic, local authorities, particularly county commissioners, have been asking me for months over a year to initiate local control. They felt like they had the tools that they needed, that they could rely on the information provided through their local public health authorities. What was really clear in the last week or so is that they were not willing to take the action needed to preserve hospital bed capacity, to make sure that we have adequate healthcare staff to take care of Oregonians’ healthcare needs, and frankly, I’m absolutely committed to keeping our schools open and our businesses thriving. So I’m taking this action now. It is unfortunate that we did not see widespread action at the local level. So I’m taking this action now.

Governor Brown: (29:38)
But do you regret lifting the mandate when you did?

Gov. Kate Brown: (29:41)
Look, we were at a point in the pandemic that we needed to move forward. I felt strongly that local elected officials needed to step up and take action and preserve hospital bed capacity and protect their vulnerable constituents. Clearly, that is not happening, and I’m needing to take action at this point in time.

Governor Brown: (30:04)
Thank you.

Dean Sidelinger: (30:05)
Thanks, Erin. We’ll go next to Simon Gutierrez with KPDV. Thank you.

Simon Gutierrez: (30:12)
Good morning, Governor. Just a question about the masking. Given what appears to be the dire nature of the surge right now and the threat to hospital capacity, will there be any stepped up enforcement of the mask mandate through OSHA or other means to make sure that businesses are complying with this?

Gov. Kate Brown: (30:31)
So Simon, Oregonians throughout this pandemic have done an extraordinary job taking precautions to protect themselves, their family members, and vulnerable community members. We are well aware that children under the age of 12 are not able to be vaccinated at this point in time. We also have many Oregonians who are immunocompromised and are struggling with other health issues. So I am asking Oregonians across the state to do their part, to step up, to use this very simple and effective tool to slow the spread of the virus to protect their vulnerable community members. We are truly all in this together, and I encourage Oregonians to take this simple action. It’s scientifically based to slow the spread of the virus. Obviously, OSHA and OHA have enforcement tools. We will take an education and information approach first, but I am asking, I am telling Oregonians to do the right thing so we can preserve hospital bed capacity, so we can keep our kids in school. Our kids learn better in the classroom when they have the emotional and educational supports that they need, and our businesses need to stay open. This is a simple and effective tool. It’s a very easy way to slow the spread. In addition, for Oregonians who haven’t gotten the vaccine, it is accessible not in every nook and cranny of Oregon, but throughout the state, and I encourage Oregonians who have not yet gotten vaccinated to take their shot.

Dean Sidelinger: (32:26)
Thank you, Simon. We’ll go next to Gary Warner with EO Media. Go ahead, Gary.

Gary Warner: (32:33)
Hi. Thank you, Governor. I wanted to find out, yesterday during the OHSU briefing, they showed a forecast that this current situation will peak around September 7th, and then there’s a backside to that. It will peak very high. During the last few weeks, we’ve had a number of county fairs. There’ve been a number of events that have not been curbed at all. Going forward, what’s going to happen with things like the Pendleton Roundup, like Oregon Ducks football?

Gov. Kate Brown: (33:07)
So, again, I would encourage public and private employers to take actions to protect their employees, their staff, and obviously Oregonians. Local authorities still have the ability to take action, further action if they would like to do so. I encourage them to take actions to protect their vulnerable community members.

Gary Warner: (33:34)
I’m sorry, but I’m going to ask again, what about the state and stepping in on major events where there’s going to be a large number of people during the height of the spike?

Gov. Kate Brown: (33:46)
So at this point in time, Gary, I am asking Oregonians to mask up and get vaccinated so that we can slow the spread and limit the amount of additional hospital beds we need so that Oregonians who need emergency or urgent care can access it and that folks can get the quality care, healthcare that they need. So we will, again, reevaluate every couple of weeks. If we see really good signs that the masking is working, that’s really good news, and so we’ll start with this, a measure which we think is simple and effective for Oregonians to follow. As I said, if 80% of Oregonians comply with this mask protocol, we will be able to reduce the number of additional hospital beds that we need.

Gary Warner: (34:43)
Would it be fair then to say that you are not taking any additional actions that would lead to the cancellation of major events based on the current situation?

Gov. Kate Brown: (34:55)
That is a fair statement. At this point in time, I am ordering Oregonians to wear their masks and encouraging Oregonians to get vaccinated. I’m obviously also requiring state public employees to get vaccinated as well. I encourage local public employers to do the exact same thing. We know that masks and vaccines are two of the most simple, effective, and relatively, at least in terms of vaccines, they’re free. In terms of masks, relatively inexpensive tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

Dean Sidelinger: (35:36)
Thank you, Gary.

Gary Warner: (35:36)
I’ll let you go. Yep.

Dean Sidelinger: (35:37)
Thanks. We have time for just a few more questions. So let’s go next to Keely McCormick with KVAL. Go ahead, Keely.

Keely McCormick: (35:45)
Hello there. So my question for you is what will lift this mask mandate again? Is this going to be more vaccines or lower hospitalizations? Then my second question for you is are we going to start seeing lower capacity requirements at businesses and restaurants again, or is it going to just be the mask mandate for now?

Kaylee: (36:03)
… businesses and restaurants again, or is it going to just be the mask mandate for now?

Gov. Kate Brown: (36:05)
So Kaylee, in terms of your last question, the answer is we are doing concerted efforts to ensure that Oregonians that are not vaccinated get vaccinated, and I am requiring Oregonians when they are in public spaces to wear a mask. These are simple and effective tools to slow the spread of the virus. So those are the actions that I am taking at this point in time. In terms of your first question, I’ll turn it over to the Oregon Health Authority, Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger.

Pat Allen: (36:39)
I think we would make recommendations to the governor driven largely by the rapidity of transmission of the virus in the community and the impact it’s having on hospitals. If we can get past the extreme lack of space in hospitals that we’re facing in the coming weeks and get back to a more manageable circumstance, I think we would come back and recommend potential changes to the mask rule.

Gov. Kate Brown: (37:08)
Okay. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (37:10)
Thank you, Kaylee. We have time for just two more questions, so we’ll go next to Aimee Green with the Oregonian. Go ahead, Aimee.

Governor Brown: (37:18)
Thank you. You were asked earlier about how the mask mandate was going to be enforced. I didn’t quite get the answer. I didn’t quite hear an answer. Will you ask state or local police to enforce the mandate or are there other means-

Gov. Kate Brown: (37:33)

Governor Brown: (37:33)
… that you’ll use for enforcement?

Gov. Kate Brown: (37:36)
No. I mean, we will be using essentially the same tools that we used last time, including enforcement through OSHA, but I am asking Oregonians to take personal responsibility. We are now over 15 months into the pandemic. We know that the Delta variant is three times more contagious. We know that the impacts are more severe. Most of us are watching what’s happening across the country with not only ICU beds filling up, but pediatric wards filling up. Louisiana took this step of requiring people to be masked once their pediatric ICU beds were almost full. So we’re taking these actions now to prevent that type of situation from happening.

Governor Brown: (38:29)
The second part of my question, just if you could elaborate please, because I think a lot of people are not quite understanding this. You’re thinking about reopening well before, many days before reopening, we can see that in the UK, the Delta variant was a big problem, that it was much more contagious, possibly causing more severe disease. And before the opening, the CDC was predicting that the Delta variant would become the dominant strain, and it did six days after reopening. And then weeks went by where we could see what was happening in Oregon and you didn’t step in, with the counties not taking action. 18 and 19 days before today, there were dire predictions from OHFU and UW. Can you explain more? I mean, didn’t that tell you enough that this was a bad situation and it’s worse now, that we have to deal with it because you’re acting today instead of three weeks ago?

Gov. Kate Brown: (39:31)
I’m certainly aware that this is a challenging situation. As I said earlier, I expected local elected officials to do the right thing and step up and protect and preserve hospital bed capacity and protect the staffing of our hospital beds, our doctors, our nurses, and our healthcare workers that now have been on the front lines for over a year and a half working day in and day out to protect Oregonians. We have had multiple conversations with local elected officials. I know that hospital CEOs, I know that local public health authorities have spoken with local elected officials. I am obviously aware that the Oregon Health Authority has spoken with local elected officials as well. What is clear is they’re not taking action. That’s why I am moving forward. My goal here is to preserve our hospital bed capacity for Oregonians that need quality health care and to preserve the ability of our students to get into the classroom in the fall full-time. As you well know, our kids absolutely need the type of education that in-person learning provides in a classroom.

Gov. Kate Brown: (40:55)
And I want to keep our businesses open. These are two simple and effective tools that we can use. I do know that Oregon is one of three states that has moved forward on a mask mandate. And I know there are other states moving forward with employee vaccination requirements. Again, I encourage our local partners, our public and private employers to step up and take action. We need to put this virus to bed, and the only way to do that is to get more people vaccinated. Dr. Allen, Director Sidelinger, sorry, Dr. Sidelinger or Director Allen, does either one of you want to fill in?

Dr. Sidelinger: (41:39)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I will say, as we reopened, we proceeded with a message that we have made great progress and that capacity constraints and other things were being lifted, but the virus was still with us, the pandemic was still upon us. At that time, our recommendation was still that people who are not vaccinated wear masks in indoor settings and outdoor private settings to protect themselves and their loved ones they returned home to. As we learned more about the contagiousness of the Delta variant, particularly the fact that small number of vaccinated individuals who could still get sick were now able to transmit the virus. And so we changed our recommendation to all individuals wearing a mask indoors and people really taking precautions. So reopening didn’t mean we had no recommendations out there, that we weren’t working to provide the public with the tools they needed to protect themselves and their family until they got vaccinated.

Dr. Sidelinger: (42:40)
This requirement is just another step in that chain as we try and get people to take actions that are going to protect themselves and those around them. We will continue to do that work with our local partners, as well as across the state, to get people to take these actions that, as the governor stated, are fairly simple and they offer tremendous protection to yourself and those around you. And that’s what it’s going to take tho slow the rise that we’re seeing now and protect our hospital capacity. So we can talk about moving back to the system we had in place on June 30th.

Governor Brown: (43:13)
I think the other thing that we simply have to face up to is that as the pandemic has gone on, Oregonians receptivity to warnings about what will happen if we don’t do certain things have been less and less. It’s been less and less effective to warn what’s coming in the future versus seeing something, what’s here in front of us now. Even today, what we know today with where our hospitals are today, with the amount of disease we have in the state, the actions that the governor is taking are being characterized by some as oppressive. I think had we tried to maintain them a month ago with the reality on the ground being what it was, we would have had a huge problem with trying to get some people to be able to follow those. As Dr. Sidelinger indicated, we had continued throughout to say people who aren’t vaccinated should wear masks and it just wasn’t happening.

Speaker 1: (44:06)
Thank you, Aimee, and thank you everyone. That’s all the time we have for questions today.

Gov. Kate Brown: (44:11)
Thank you, everyone. Please stay safe out there. Drink plenty of water. And if you don’t have air conditioning, look for cooling centers in a community near you.

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