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Gov. Brown expands mask mandate to children, lowers venue size

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she is expanding the state's current COVID-19 mask order to also apply to children 5 years and older and that she is decreasing the capacity of indoor venues from 250 people to 100.

The governor said these new mandates, that go into effect Friday, are necessary to help slow the increasing spread of coronavirus. On Tuesday, the total number of confirmed and presumptive virus cases in the state topped 15,000. At least 269 people have died.

“When we see the numbers rise, we must respond,” Brown said.

Currently anyone who is 12 years or older must wear masks inside public spaces and in outdoor areas where they can not maintain physical distance. The mandate will now apply to anyone 5 years or older.

In addition the capacity of indoor venues in Oregon, which includes bars, restaurants, gyms, churches and movie theaters, will be decreased to 100 people.

Lastly, restaurants and bars across the state will be required to close at 10 p.m. rather than 12 a.m.

“The steps Gov. Brown announced today build on previous measures she has announced in recent weeks,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist. "These measures are designed to slow community spread and address hotspots.”

While workplace outbreaks are not increasing case counts as much as earlier in the pandemic, Sidelinger said there is an concerning increase in sporadic or community spread cases.

“Meaning the virus is circulating more than we hoped,” Sidelinger said.

In addition, Brown said there has also been an increase in cases connected to tourism and as a result she is considering requiring mandatory quarantining for people arriving from places that are known COVID-19 hotspots.

Sidelinger said although hospitalizations are continuing to rise, it is not increasing at the same rate as new infections, in part because there are more cases among younger people who tend to experience milder symptoms of COVID-19.

“Today, Oregon hospitals continue to have an adequate number of ICU beds and ventilators to treat people with severe COVID-19 illness," Sidelinger said. "But, we can’t ignore the looming danger – if left unchecked, we’re on a trajectory to overwhelm our health care system with cases in the future.”

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Gov. Kate Brown expanded Oregon's COVID-19 mask order Wednesday at a news conference.{ }