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New COVID guidelines are prudent

Gov. Kate Brown’s new coronavirus order was not unexpected, and it’s a prudent move under the circumstances. It will be up to individual Oregonians to act responsibly and comply.

The governor announced Monday that she was banning private gatherings of more than 10 people, and requiring face masks to be worn even outdoors in settings where 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained. The moves came in response to a spike in new cases since many counties in the state moved into phase two reopening.

As Rep. Pam Marsh noted in a statement on social media Monday, Oregon has seen as many new cases of COVID-19 in the past week as it did in the entire month of May. That should cause concern and prompt more people to follow the measures that have been shown to reduce transmission.

The new order changes nothing for churches, or bars, restaurants and other businesses, which can continue to operate. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission are enforcing compliance with mask and social distancing rules. But those agencies have no authority over private gatherings. Brown said Monday that she doesn’t want the state to be the “party police,” and asked the public to voluntarily comply with the new guidelines.

The restriction on private gatherings is justifiable in light of the data on new infections. In contrast with the early stages of the pandemic, when the virus affected mostly older adults, half of new cases are occurring in people younger than 40 and one-third are striking those who are 30 and younger.

Health officials say new cases are increasingly traced to private gatherings such as weddings and house parties. A pair of parties recently was connected to new cases in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Brown urged Oregonians to be responsible and comply with the new restrictions. While she is not moving to actively enforce the orders, she warned that if the restrictions are ignored, “I will be forced to take more restrictive measures.”

Oregonians should take that seriously. Also on Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped all indoor dining and closed bars, zoos and museums because of a spike in cases in that state. In most counties, churches, gyms, hair salons and malls also were ordered closed.

That could happen here, too, if people get too careless.