The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Multnomah County Now Recommends Wearing a Mask Indoors Whether You’re Vaccinated or Not

Facing mounting COVID case counts, local officials call for added precautions.

As COVID-19 case counts increase, Multnomah County officials are again recommending that everyone, vaccinated or not, wear a mask indoors.

The announcement comes as Oregon’s COVID cases have climbed, the virus’s Delta variant has become the dominant strain, and vaccinations have slowed.

Similar changes in recommendations have been made by other counties across the nation as the Delta variant sweeps through the unvaccinated. Some jurisdictions have gone further: In Los Angeles County, masks are once again required (not just suggested).

County officials say the Delta variant, long anticipated by health experts as the next threat, has indeed arrived in Oregon.

“The state of Oregon is already at about 80% Delta variant of recently sequenced tests,” the county states in its announcement.

“We have an opportunity to make a difference in our county’s case rates right now,” said Multnomah County public health director Jessica Guernsey. “But if we don’t act, we can expect an exponential rise in cases, especially in pockets with low vaccinations. This could lead to preventable hospitalizations and even death.”

Notably, the county mentioned the stakes attached to halting the increase in cases—both for businesses staying open and schools opening as normal.

“Masking is a step we can all take right now to keep businesses open and move ahead with our plans for the school year,” says Guernsey. “This is the thing that will make a difference.”

The county release makes clear that masking is designed to protect the unvaccinated in particular, but acknowledges that there have been (mostly less severe) breakthrough cases—that is, cases in people who are fully vaccinated.

“Vaccination remains the very best protection against this virus and its variants, so for anyone who can, don’t wait. Get your shot,” said Guernsey. “But we need a quick course correction to protect children and other people right now. And masks offer that protection.”