Oregon officials plan to lift the state’s indoor mask requirement “no later than” March 31, 2022, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced on Monday, amid its recent decision to give the “temporary” indoor masking rule for schools “permanent” status.
“Oregon will remove general mask requirements for indoor public places no later than March 31, state health officials announced today,” a February 7 bulletin reads, noting that health officials say individuals must remain masked for now “as COVID-19 hospitalizations crest and Oregon’s health care system strains to treat high numbers of severely ill patients.”
This coming change coincides with officials changing the state’s school masking rule from temporary to permanent, forcing students to mask “unless the State Public Health Director or State Public Health Officer issues an order stating that the some or all requirements in this rule are no longer necessary to control COVID-19.”
According to the bulletin, moving the rule to a “permanent” status was the “only way health officials could extend the current temporary mask rule past its expiration date and until mask rules would no longer be needed to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – to save lives and prevent the Omicron crisis from further overwhelming Oregon’s health care system.”
Students in fifth grade wear masks as they wait for their teacher in the classroom. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
“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,” the bulletin continued.
“In the meantime, health experts strongly recommend high-risk individuals continue wearing masks in indoor public settings after mask requirements are lifted,” it continued. Notably, officials consider unvaccinated individuals to be “high risk.”
“Once requirements are lifted, employers and businesses may continue to establish their own mask requirements to protect employees and customers,” the release continued, noting that school mask requirements will also be lifted on March 31.
The news comes as other blue-state leaders, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), Delaware Gov. John Carney (D), and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D), announced plans to lift school mask mandates as well.