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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Photo: Meg Roussos/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday announced a new statewide outdoor mask mandate requiring people to wear masks in most outdoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

State of play: Starting Friday, Oregonians will be required to wear masks outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. While the mandate does not apply to outdoor gatherings in private residences, masks are "strongly recommended" when people from different households cannot remain socially distanced.

  • The rule also does not apply to "fleeting encounters," such as when two people walk by one another on a trail or in a park.

What they're saying: "The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high," Brown said in a statement.

  • "Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight COVID and protect one another," she added.
  • "We are starting to see instances where cases are clustering around events, like outdoor music festivals, that happen outdoors. Wearing masks in crowded settings — even outdoors — will help slow the spread of COVID-19," said Dean Sidelinger, Oregon's state health officer.

By the numbers: Oregon has reported a total of 257,644 cases and 3,036 confirmed deaths, according to government data.

  • On Aug. 14, the state recorded 2,220 new cases, its highest number of single-day cases.

Go deeper

Omicron variant detected in more countries

The Galeao International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazi. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea on Wednesday became the latest countries to report cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They followed similar announcements made in Brazil and Japan on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The arrival of the "variant of concern" in more countries underscores the difficulties governments are facing as they seek to reopen economies stalled by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions in the era of global air travel.

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated Dec 2, 2021 - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.