REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Press Conference: Face Coverings Required Statewide
July 1, 2020
Good morning. And thank you for joining us.
I am here with Dr. Renee Edwards, Chief Medical Officer of OHSU and a member of my Medical Advisory Panel. And Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist.
It’s been 100 days since I announced Oregon’s Stay Home Save Lives order to reduce the spread of COVD-19 infections.
When I first declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus on March 8 -- a little over 16 weeks ago -- there were 14 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon.
Today, there are over 8,600 cases, with more than a quarter of those cases identified in a two week period in June.
At this pace, we could reach 10,000 cases within a week.
Less than six weeks have passed since the first Oregon counties began their gradual reopening process.
And today, Oregon, you have a choice. A choice that only you can make.
What happens next is up to you. It’s up to each of us.
Do we wear face coverings, keep a physical distance and avoid large gatherings? Do we protect ourselves, our families, our grandparents?
Or do we pretend that this virus isn’t hiding and lurking among us?
Do we pretend that we’re somehow immune because we have not gotten sick so far?
Do we pretend that it’s no longer an invisible killer?
There is absolutely no question: Oregon has been a leader so far in fighting this pandemic.
In the months since we discovered Oregon’s first cases of COVID-19, we have shored up our supplies of personal protective equipment, hired contact tracers.
And despite the failures of the federal government to supply Oregon with an equitable amount of testing materials, we have expanded our statewide testing capability.
We have made tremendous sacrifices. Graduation ceremonies canceled. Weddings postponed. Businesses shuttered. Jobs lost.
By staying home to save lives this spring, Oregonians prevented 1,500 hospitalizations and over 70,000 COVID-19 infections.
We have one of the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates in the country.
And now, we find ourselves at a new crossroads.
The choices each of us makes will decide whether we reduce the spread of this virus and find a way to keep businesses open -- or whether we let down our defenses and allow the virus to take hold.
An uncontrolled spike in cases will threaten to overwhelm our hospital capacity. And force us to close down businesses again.
We have a chance, now, as we approach the Fourth of July holiday weekend. A chance to protect ourselves and each other.
In states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona the disease spread Hospital emergency rooms are now flooded with coronavirus cases.
And now they are closing down businesses again.
What happens next is up to all of us.
I’ve asked Dr. Edwards from OHSU to join us today to help explain why it is so important to wear a face covering -- a mask, or bandana, or hand-sewn fabric -- to cover your nose and mouth when out in public.
But before she does, I want to say a few things about our statewide face covering requirement. This requirement has been in effect in seven counties and it goes into effect statewide today.
Oregon isn’t alone in having a requirement to cover your face when in public indoor spaces. Nearly twenty states have implemented these rules….
● North Carolina
● New York
● New Hampshire
● Oh, and Kansas has a face covering requirement, too. The list goes on.
Oregon’s face covering requirement generally applies to all indoor places where the public may go.
This means grocery stores, pharmacies and shops. It means lobbies, elevators and restrooms. It means gyms, restaurants and churches.
Any time you might be in an indoor area with the general public, you should put on a face covering.
There are some exceptions to the rules. The mandate does not extend to children 12 and under. Though I still encourage parents to help kids ages two and up to wear face coverings in public to the extent possible.
The mandate allows for accommodations for those who may have a medical condition that makes wearing a face covering difficult or dangerous to their health.
Another exception is while you are eating and drinking in a restaurant, for example. And finally, if physical exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering, while exercising, you may remove it as long as you can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.
This is both an individual mandate and a requirement upon businesses and the owners of public indoor spaces. This is enforceable by law at both an individual and business level.
As with all of the orders I have issued to keep people safe and save Oregon lives, violation of the order can carry a class C misdemeanor.
However, as with all of my orders, I do not want the local police issuing tickets. Instead, I am calling upon businesses to step up and help ensure that the public and their employees are protected.
My agencies are working to set best practices for businesses to operate with this new requirement. It is incumbent upon all of us to adopt this requirement.
If covered businesses ignore the rule, then OSHA and other state agencies are already following up on complaints and will use all tools available to ensure enforcement. I am serious about this. I’m also willing to bet that Oregonians want to frequent businesses where they feel safe.
Wearing a face covering is a simple, common sense way to protect yourself and others. What an easy way to save a life.
At the end of the day, the number of cases we see will be a reflection of our collective efforts as Oregonians. And my sincere hope is that these steps can prevent shutting down businesses again.
In addition to the statewide face covering requirement, today we are launching a new public education advertising campaign. Oregon-based ad agency Weiden and Kennedy donated their time to make this possible.
Their new ad campaign will help educate Oregonians, especially younger Oregonians, about the importance of covering your nose and mouth when out in public.
We will supplement this effort with Spanish language advertising and outreach and ads in a number of other languages as well.
Now I’d like to ask Dr. Edwards to talk about how face coverings prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.