Mask mandates for indoor public spaces and schools to end March 19

People in health care settings will still be required to wear masks

Oregon will lift mask requirements for indoor public places and schools March 19, the Oregon Health Authority announced today, as COVID -19-related hospitalizations continue to drop throughout the state.

Earlier this month, OHA announced that the general indoor mask requirement would be lifted by March 31, with the option of lifting it sooner if conditions improved enough. At that time, OHA also announced the K-12 indoor mask rule would lift on March 31. Feedback from school districts around the state indicated preparations for the transition could be completed sooner.

By that date, it was expected, 400 or fewer people per day in Oregon would be hospitalized with the virus, a level the state experienced prior to the arrival of the Omicron variant. Recent modeling by Oregon Health and Science University predicted the state would reach that total around March 20.

Daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined 48% since peaking in late January. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations have fallen by an average of more than 30 per day.

Reported COVID-19 infections have also dropped precipitously in recent weeks. Over the past month, new infections have declined by more than 80%. The seven-day moving average for new cases is 84% lower than at the peak of the Omicron surge.

“We are able to take this important step earlier than anticipated, because of the collective diligence and shared sacrifice that people in Oregon have demonstrated in getting vaccinated, wearing masks and limiting their gatherings,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist.

“Based on the feedback from local leaders and communities, OHA and ODE are partnering to develop practical updates to safety protocols for quarantine, contact tracing and testing which meet the current conditions of the pandemic,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education and deputy superintendent of public instruction.

The March 19 date continues to give local communities time to prepare for the transition, and it allows district and school leaders to take necessary actions to ensure students can safely remain in their classrooms.

State officials highly recommend that people at high risk of severe disease continue to wear masks in indoor public settings even after the restrictions are lifted. This includes people who are at higher risk because they are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, are age 65 or older, or who live with someone in one of those categories.

State officials also continue to strongly recommend universal masking in K-12 settings where children are required to attend. Those settings bring together vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, as well as individuals who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

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