Health and Wellness

Pandemic in periphery

After three years of historic illness and changes, last week rang in the end of the federal public health emergency for COVID-19. As a result, Oregon’s pandemic measures will undergo similar changes.

Ending the public health emergency comes as COVID-19 weekly cases and hospitalizations are down drastically from previous years.

Nearly 38 months since the first Covid case was reported in Oregon, state officials are lifting many of the protective measures they say have helped reduce infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

One of the first changes is no longer recommending five-day isolation periods for those infected with COVID-19. Now, officials say people are best staying home until they’re fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms have improved.

“These are similar to recommendations we make to folks who are recovering from influenza or RSV,” said Dean Sidelinger, Oregon Health officer, during an online media event Wednesday. “And we feel that this is the best response and evolution to our guidance as we enter this phase of the pandemic.”

Still, Sidelinger said that going into summer, Oregonians should be as up to date as possible with their Covid vaccinations and boosters.

“That offers you and your loved ones the best protection. If you’ve not yet received a COVID-19 bivalent booster, please get that,” he said. “If you are an individual who’s at higher risk or bear complications because you’re immunocompromised or over 65, and it’s been four months since your last bivalent booster, you can get a second bivalent booster.” 

As of March 10, a New York Times tracker shows Oregon suffered 967,156 cases of Covid, and 9,451 deaths. The state’s overall vaccination rate is 71%.

Extended health coverage, services, and supports for older adults and people with disabilities are also ending, as is continuous coverage for Medicaid. Oregonians are advised to update their information and status for the Oregon Health Plan, for a “redetermination” process.

State officials praised the response to the pandemic, noting Oregon is among those with lower death rates and higher vaccination rates than many others in the U.S. They said going forward, people will live with the possibility of contacting COVID-19 for years to come but expressed optimism that with diminished rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, that outcomes are much better now than at the onset of the pandemic.

“We anticipate in the fall, we will have updated boosters available, and we’ll encourage you to get those along with your flu shot,”  Sidelinger added.

In a release, the Oregon Health Authority shared other areas that will see changes regarding pandemic protocols:

Exposure, isolation guidance

A five-day period of isolation for those infected with the COVID-19 virus will not be recommended for the general population, including people in K-12 education settings. OHA officials believe widespread population immunity due to vaccination and repeated infections means many COVID-19 infections are now likely asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the five-day isolation period does little to reduce transmission.

Instead, they say, the recommendation for the general population will be to stay home until fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms improve, to avoid contact with individuals at increased risk for severe disease, like older adults or people with underlying medical conditions; and consider masking for 10 days.

School testing

Diagnostic testing resources for students and staff with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 in schools will remain available through July 31, 2024 – including iHealth self-tests. These will remain available for K-12 schools to request and distribute to their school communities until the stock is depleted. Weekly opt-in “screening” testing for K-12 students and staff without COVID-19 symptoms will end July 31 as funding for the effort wraps up.


OHA will change how it monitors COVID-19, epidemiologists will transition to a new model that focuses on gathering transmission data and learning more about severe outcomes, like “long-COVID.” OHA officials say the changes mirror how the common cold is monitored.

The endings of the vaccination, isolation and some testing measures are among a spate of impending changes over the coming weeks as Oregon, and the nation, continue the long, careful transition out of the pandemic. A number of “flexibilities” put in place during the pandemic will remain in effect.

The following are among the Covid-era activities and requirements that will continue: 

• An extension of a 90-day “reasonable opportunity period” for non-citizens to verify citizenship or immigration status to 180 days so they can enroll in Oregon Health Plan (OHP).

• A requirement that OHP providers, including coordinated care organizations, continue to cover COVID-19 vaccinations and treatment without cost sharing, and that commercial health insurers cover vaccinations without cost sharing. In Oregon, vaccinations are covered no matter where someone gets a shot. Oregonians should contact their health care provider about where they can get vaccinated.

• A requirement that Oregon health care providers be reimbursed for language interpreter services (spoken or signed) provided during an office visit.

• A requirement that OHP providers offer access to telehealth services.