Masks welcome, not required

Oregon set to lift mask mandate in healthcare settings


Fern Barber

Katie Barber poses as she removes her mask on Tuesday, March 14 in Corvallis. The last remaining mask mandate in Oregon, which requires them to be worn in health care settings, will be lifted on April 3.

Wes Flow, News Reporter

Next time you’re in a doctor’s office, you may see many of the things one would expect to be there: needles, stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, among others. The one thing that may be missing is a mask.

The Oregon Health Authority has announced its requirement that masks be worn in healthcare settings will be lifted on April 3, ending the state’s final remaining mask mandate.

OHA announced on March 3 that the mandate, which affected healthcare workers, as well as patients and visitors, was being lifted as data shows a statewide decline in positive COVID-19, influenza and RSV tests. According to OHA Lead Communications Officer Jonathan Modie, the decision to lift the requirement, which has been in place since August of 2021, was coordinated with California and Washington.

Modie said that, while a rise in cases of respiratory diseases may occur over next fall and winter, OHA does not expect that mask requirements will return for this, although individual healthcare providers may choose to implement their own mask requirements. 

While a return of the masks is not anticipated, other preparations will still need to be made for the respiratory virus season, Modie added.

“We know there will be conversations happening in Oregon between local public health agencies, the health care system, and patient/consumer groups, who will be asking what should be done to prepare for the next respiratory virus season,” Modie said. “This summer’s relative down time…offers us some opportunity to have those conversations.”

According to April Holland, director of the Benton County Health Department, Benton County will be following the state’s masking guidelines in its facilities. Holland recommended that people who are sick still wear a mask, regardless of setting.

“It has been three years, and individuals are certainly experiencing COVID-19 fatigue. Unfortunately, the virus is still circulating and it is still a concern,” Holland said. 

Holland recommended that those who still want or need extra protection from infection continue to wear a mask, especially in public spaces during times of high transmission.

“Local public health authorities, like BCHD, are in frequent contact with the OHA, and have an active role in informing decisions made by that organization, but the ultimate decision in state rules lies with the state,” Holland said.

According to Kelly Hower, executive director of Oregon State University’s Student Health Services, SHS will also not require wearing masks in its facilities once the statewide mandate is lifted. Hower said students are asked to wear a mask if they are experiencing any respiratory symptoms. 

“By wearing a mask when you are sick, you are helping to protect others around you. It’s a simple and effective way to prevent the spread of illness in our community,” Hower said. “We will be asking all students with cough, fever or other respiratory symptoms to wear a mask when visiting SHS facilities.”

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