Health & Wellness

Masks off in health care settings April 3

The Oregon Health Authority is lifting the last major mask mandate designed to fight the spread of COVID-19 — the one covering doctor’s offices and other health care settings.

Health regulators announced earlier this month that the mask requirement for workers, patients and visitors to health care settings such as hospitals, dentist’s offices, urgent care centers and school nurses’ offices, will expire on April 3. 

The Oregon mandate has been in place since August 2021.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state epidemiologist, said in a press conference that the decision was based on data showing recent decreases in the three respiratory pathogens that led to a surge in people needing treatment last fall.

“The circulation of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, has gone way down, and we’re continuing to see downward trends in our COVID-19 numbers,” Sidelinger said. “So I think this is the right time to repeal this rule.”

The announcement comes days after the third anniversary of the first detected case of COVID-19 in Oregon, which occurred on Feb. 28, 2020.

Some health care settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirements are lifted, Sidelinger added. 

The month-long lead-up to the ending of Oregon’s health care mask requirement “the health care system, local public health authorities and other health partners time to prepare for the change, including adjusting policies, training and procedures that ensure continued patient safety and access.”

It also gave members of the public, particularly populations at increased risk of severe disease — communities of color, tribal communities, rural communities, lower-income communities, those with underlying medical conditions, seniors and parents of vulnerable infants — a chance to plan health care visits and protective measures.

Data in recent weeks shows that the three respiratory conditions that caused a surge in hospital visits last fall have started to decrease, OHA reported. Here’s a look at the data for the three pathogens now vs. a few months ago in December 2022:

COVID-19 test positivity: 10% now | 12% in December

Influenza test positivity: 1.2% now | 24% in December

RSV test positivity: 3.5% now | 11% in December

OHA recommends in order to protect yourself and your family and community, stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. To find a vaccine or booster near you, go to, or call 211. 

Those at high risk of disease or people who live with people at higher risk should still “consider wearing masks in health care or any settings” to protect themselves and those around them, OHA said. Others may choose to wear masks if it makes them feel more comfortable in those settings.

OHA also said some health care facilities may continue to require masks even after the mandate is lifted.

For local PeaceHealth officials, the next steps will come with guidance from OHA. They said in a statement Monday, “PeaceHealth is carefully evaluating how best to update our approach in light of evolving state guidance, changes in the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 infections in our communities, and our primary focus of keeping patients and caregivers safe.”



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