People are required to wear masks in Clatsop County starting Wednesday while in stores and other indoor public spaces to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. Kate Brown on Friday afternoon approved the county Board of Commissioners' request to opt in to a mask requirement the governor imposed for seven Oregon counties.
The requirement went into effect on Wednesday for Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Lincoln, Marion and Polk counties.
Brown did not include counties with lower infection rates in her mandate, but gave counties the ability to opt in to the requirement. Clatsop County commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday night to opt in.
With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, and coronavirus cases still rising across the state, Brown on Monday extended the mask requirement statewide.
“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks," the governor said in a statement.
“The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.
“Face coverings that cover your nose and mouth play a critical role in reducing the spread of this disease because droplets from our breath can carry the virus to others without us realizing it."
Brown warned that government restrictions that have been lifted in many counties could return. “I do not want to have to close down businesses again like other states are now doing," she said. "If you want your local shops and restaurants to stay open, then wear a face covering when out in public."
Becky Hultberg, the president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, supported Brown's decision.
"With cases on the rise rapidly across the state, it is now more important than ever to take this step to protect our loved ones, our neighbors and our communities," she said in a statement. "Further, if we are to coexist alongside the disease, wide adoption of public face coverings is an essential factor in keeping our businesses and public spaces open."
Counties have been granted discretion by Brown in how to enforce the mask requirement.
Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan, the chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners, said wearing a mask in public is a small inconvenience that can help protect everyone.
"I take this pandemic very seriously and so I wear a mask because I want to protect the people around me," she said. "I don't want to be a part of the problem."
Sullivan said the county is continuing to work on the education piece of the mask requirement. She hopes wearing a mask in public can become part of people's everyday routine.
Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer said he is supportive of wearing masks in public, but was the only mayor to oppose the county opting in to the mask requirement.
In a Facebook live video Friday night, the mayor said he would have preferred the county maintain local sovereignty and create its own mask guidance.
He said he is also not in favor of creating a requirement that is not enforceable.
"I think it's important that if you're going to do something, you should be prepared to enforce it. And if you don't, then you should call it guidance, because that's really what it is," Balensifer said.
"It's important in my mind that if you have laws that there is something to undergird that. And if people have an expectation that they're not going to be required to do something that's in the law, that undermines the rule of law, in my opinion."