Gov. Kate Brown today announced a decision to lift Oregon’s indoor mask mandate no later than March 31. The mandate could end earlier if hospitalizations drop faster than expected.
Oregon was among the last to lift the outdoor mandate, in November, and Brown’s decision came only after public pressure from Democratic leaders.
Today’s decision by Brown comes as governors of Connecticut and New Jersey announced decisions to lift school mask mandates in coming weeks. In Delaware, the governor announced the mask mandate would lift on Friday.
Current projections show that by the end of March, hospitalizations for COVID-19 will have declined to 400 or fewer, the Oregon Health Authority says.
“The evidence from Oregon and around the country is clear: Masks save lives by slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, in a statement. “We should see COVID-19 hospitalizations drop by the end of March because so many Oregonians are wearing masks and taking other steps to protect themselves and each other, such as getting a booster shot or vaccinating their children. At that point, it will be safer to lift mask requirements.”
State health officials will weigh lifting the mask mandate earlier than expected if the hospitalizations decline to that level more quickly than expected.
In Oregon, businesses will have the option to write their own rules on masking, and schools will not lift their mask mandate until March 31. (OHA will continue to recommend the use of masks in schools, but mandates will be left to local school officials.)
Sidelinger advised that Oregonians who aren’t vaccinated, are elderly in congregant settings, or have immune conditions, as well as those who live with people at higher risk of COVID-19, should continue to wear a mask.