Due to the declining Covid hospitalizations along the west coast, the state health officials are lifting mask requirements in indoor public spaces and schools on March 12, shifting masking decisions to the local level, Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday.
Oregon hospitalization rates during the Omicron surge are a third lower than the national average, according to OHSU Health Sciences. At its present pace, hospitalizations could fall below pre-Omicron levels locally by next week.
Just a month ago, the state reported 1,125 Covid hospitalizations. “Our expectations at that time were dire,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “Today we are reporting 479 hospitalizations – a 57% decline,” he said, crediting people’s successful implementation of risk mitigation methods during the surge.
This date is earlier than previously indicated, and made in tandem with Washington and California states, because “lifting masking requirements at the same time will help to ensure a smooth transition for communities and school districts across the West Coast,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, during a Monday news conference.
This gives schools, public health authorities, businesses and other organizations about two weeks to create and implement local mitigation strategies.
Later this week, the OHA and the ODE will release an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework to offer further guidance to schools as they take on more and more of the responsibility for COVID-19 protection strategies at the local level, Gill said.
Monday marked the second anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Oregon, which was discovered at an elementary school in Lake Oswego. Since then, Oregon has logged more than 690,000 cases and over 6,500 deaths, said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA.
“As we move toward this new stage in the pandemic … it is my hope that we can come together as communities and offer one another grace and patience through the next several weeks,” Gill said.