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.

Tips for understanding the CDC’s new masking recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its masking recommendations to encourage people to wear higher-quality masks, if they have access to them, like N95s and KN95s. But how do you properly wear one? How many times can you wear one before tossing it?  If you can’t get an N95 or KN95, what are your other options? 

Click here for a flyer with new masking recommendations and tips.

Outdoor mask requirement lifted

The Oregon Health Authority today announced the lifting of the mask requirement for outdoor gatherings, but said masks were still recommended for large outdoor gatherings where social distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are still required in indoor settings.

“COVID-19 remains a very unpredictable virus,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said. He pointed to the high number of people still hospitalized in Oregon, and increased cases in several US states currently to stress that this is not a time to let our guard down.

Oregon reached the sad milestone of 5,000 COVID-19-related deaths this week. “Each death represents a hole in someone’s life that will never be filled,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. This does not compare with flu, he said, “A bad flu season kills 600 Oregonians a year.” As the holidays approach, MCHD urges everyone to be considerate of the family members we love. Limit the size of gatherings, wear masks when indoors with unvaccinated people, and wash your hands frequently.

Masks recommended outdoors beginning Friday

The Most Face-Friendly Mask We've Tested Is Half Off

As Covid continues to surge through Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown has announced an outdoor mask requirement beginning Friday, Aug. 27. Adults and children over 5 will be asked to wear masks in outdoor settings where people are close to each other, unless they are actively eating or drinking, and people are encouraged to social distance from each other. Brown also encouraged people to wear masks when visiting people in their homes and social distance cannot be maintained.

Shortages of hospital beds, equipment, supplies and staff have caused Brown to act to stop the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

People will need to wear masks regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Although COVID vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death, public health officials are concerned about evidence that fully vaccinated people can still become infected and spread COVID to others, Brown said.

“The delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic,” the governor said in a news release, noting that Oregon has experienced record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations so far in the ongoing delta-fueled wave. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

In Malheur County, cases are growing exponentially week after week, with 113 cases recorded in the week ending Aug. 20, “This is a frustrating situation for everyone,” said Malheur County Health Department PIO Angie Sillonis. “There are steps we can all take to stop the spread of this virus. The first is to avoid large gatherings, the second is to wear masks when we’re around other people, and the third is to get vaccinated,” she said.

 “Vaccination is the best way to get back to living our lives as we did before Covid,” Sillonis said. Currently, 40 percent of eligible Malheur County residents are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. That number needs to be higher than 80 percent to help keep our fellow community members safe, she added.

There are exceptions to the requirement, which align with the recent statewide indoor mask requirement. It does not apply to:

  • Children under 5
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking or sleeping, as well as individuals living outdoors
  • People playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask, such as swimming
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing, such as with outdoor music or theater
  • Mask requirements for K-12 schools will fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events and gatherings of general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule
  • Entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law

Oregon adjusts guidance for masks, physical distancing

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today released updated guidance about mask and physical distancing requirements for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the updated guidance, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors, in most public settings where vaccination status is checked. In public settings where vaccination status is not checked, masks will still be required. Finally, businesses and venue operators remain free to establish their own, more restrictive policies regarding mask usage.

The full OHA bulletin is available here