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Oregon to lift indoor mask mandate by March 31

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 3:09 PM PST
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SALEM, Ore. (KPTV) - Oregon will lift its indoor mask mandate for public places no later than March 31, state health officials announced today.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, by late March, health scientists expect that about 400 or fewer Oregonians would be hospitalized with COVID-19, the level of hospitalizations the state experienced before Omicron. Mask requirements for schools will be lifted on March 31.

The state said the mask mandate won’t be lifted sooner because hospitalizations remain high.

Legally, the state could not extend the temporary rule requiring masks indoors any longer. That rule expires Feb. 8, and now OHA will file a new temporary rule on masking.

The rule can be found here.

“The evidence from Oregon and around the country is clear: masks save lives by slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist. “We should see COVID-19 hospitalizations drop by the end of March because so many Oregonians are wearing masks and taking other steps to protect themselves and each other, such as getting a booster shot or vaccinating their children. At that point, it will be safer to lift mask requirements.”

Oregon and Washington are two of only nine states in America with indoor mask mandates still in place as of last week.

Over the past week, the average number of newly diagnosed cases has dropped about 40% in Oregon, OHA reports. At the same time, hospitalizations, which are a lagging indicator, have remained at more than 1,000 people per day.

As of Monday, Oregon’s seven-day total in COVID-19 hospitalizations inched down another 1%, with 1,072 people reported hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 9 in 10 intensive care unit (ICU) and acute care beds are currently occupied by a patient in Oregon hospitals.

Current models show hospitalizations peaking at 1,169, then declining throughout February and March.

State health officials said they would consider lifting the general indoor mask requirement earlier than March 31, if hospitalizations decline to the levels projected by the end of March sooner than expected.

OHA strongly recommends that high-risk individuals continue wearing masks in indoor public settings after mask requirements are lifted, including people who are:

  • Unvaccinated
  • Immunocompromised
  • At high risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations, including those with underlying health conditions and those 65 and older
  • Living with people at high risk

Once requirements are lifted, employers and businesses may continue to establish their own mask requirements to protect employees and customers.

To give school districts time to prepare, the mask requirements in schools will lift on March 31.