Office workers will be required to wear masks indoors to help keep Oregon on track to suppress the growth of COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown said Friday.

“It’s a small act that can make a big difference,” Brown said.

The rules for face coverings in the workplace are being finalized and could be announced as early as next week.

Brown made the comments during an Oregon Health Authority media briefing on the pandemic’s impact on Oregon.

Official state statistics show 20,636 cases and 348 deaths from the virus.

On Friday, the state reported 423 new cases and nine deaths. The fatalities were in Deschutes, Umatilla, Jefferson, Marion, Clackamas, Jackson, Malheur and Yamhill counties. Eight of the dead were over 75 years old. The youngest was a 64-year-old man in Klamath County.

Despite the daily numbers, state officials said overall trends show the rate of growth of new COVID-19 cases has improved.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s top infectious disease expert, said after more than two months of increases, the rate of COVID-19 infection statewide was leveling off. Currently, each case leads to one additional case, a rate that would keep infections at or near current levels.

Maintaining the flat rate is the key to keep Oregon moving toward allowing some in-class instruction at K-12 schools and colleges, the state officials said. Hospitals will have enough hospital beds and ventilators to take care of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

“Rather than just a plateau, we would like to see our curve and cases drop off,” Sidelinger said.

Until a vaccine is created and widely distributed, health officials can only try to suppress growth in cases, while medical researchers find ways to decrease severe cases with a mix of medicines and treatment.

Sidelinger noted that Oregon was holding at a high rate of infection and that even a 10 percent increase in cases would lead to an exponential rise in hospitalization that could swamp the state health care system and quickly drive deaths up.

Progress has not been uniform with infections spiking in some counties.

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