Two statewide surveys of Oregonians show that the majority of state residents take mask-wearing precautions seriously amid the COVID-19 pandemic but are still congregating in groups of more than 10.
"In a survey of 1,000 Oregonians conducted by DHM Research, more than 8 in 10 report wearing masks nearly all of the time while in public indoor spaces; more than 2 in 3 avoid crowded places; and more than 6 in 10 are staying 6 feet apart when in public," the Oregon Health Authority wrote in a news release. "However, roughly half of Oregonians report attending about four or more social gatherings in the previous two weeks, and 1 in 5 Oregonians say they have attended at least one social gathering of more than 10 people in the past two weeks."
The survey results were released Thursday morning, hours before OHA announced a new one-day record for COVID-19 infections. Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials have repeatedly blamed steady caseloads on people gathering in informal groups, and pleaded with Oregonians to stop.
While the majority of Oregonians who were part of the survey attempt to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus, fewer than one-quarter are "very worried" about getting sick with COVID-19.
"Oregonians who gather in larger groups also reported taking fewer protective measures," the health authority wrote. "State public health epidemiologists have pointed to social gatherings as a primary route of transmission for COVID-19 in Oregon."
The Latinx community has been disproportionately affected by the virus. Hispanic and Latinx people currently make up 40% of the reported COVID-19 cases in Oregon, even though just 13% of Oregonians are Latinx.
A separate survey of Latinx Oregonians conducted in Spanish by Lara Media found even greater compliance with health guidelines and deeper fear of contracting the disease. Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported wearing a face mask nearly all of the time while in public indoor spaces, more than half avoid crowded places, and more than 6 in 10 are staying 6 feet apart when in public. Nearly three quarters, 72%, of the people surveyed in Spanish said they were worried about getting sick.
State officials said regard for others should drive people to take more caution.
"These results show that nearly all Oregonians understand it's important to wear a mask," Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen said. "But fewer Oregonians believe they're at risk of getting sick, and too many people are socializing indoors in bigger groups. It's hard to sustain the changes we've all had to make in our lives to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19. But we won't be able to prevent more infections, and get more schools and businesses open in Oregon, until more people act with urgency and avoid the social superspreader gatherings that have driven COVID-19 transmission and disease in Oregon."