PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Indoor mask mandates in Oregon may have been lifted, but with COVID-19 cases back on the rise, local health officials are urging the public to keep wearing them inside.

In a press release published Wednesday, Multnomah County health officials pleaded with people to cover their faces amid yet another increase in infections.

Cases in the metro area are up 43% compared with two weeks ago, with statewide hospitalizations crossing 200 for the first time since March.

“This is not a mandate,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer. “But we are asking everyone to put their masks back on for a few weeks as they go to school, work and other indoor events.”

The good news — the county says they don’t expect a large increase in hospitalizations.

Even still, health officials said everyone — vaccinated or not — should “step up their precautions for now” and stay home if they feel sick.

Schools are experiencing outbreaks, although symptoms tend to be mild or absent for children and teens, and hospitalizations haven’t increased in the age group, officials said.

In a message sent to families this week, Lincoln High School Principal Peyton Chapman said the school had seen multiple outbreaks of the virus, prompting her to echo the same call: wear a mask, especially in crowded settings.

“Anyone who has attended any of the large school events recently (like prom or the school play) should
wear a mask at all times,” Chapman wrote in the message.

The high school also ordered an unspecified number of home test kits for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19.

“We are in the phase of the pandemic where we must respond with what we know works. And that’s vaccines and masking indoors,” Vines said. “In the context of schools, the academic success, social wellbeing and mental health of our kids should be a top priority. That’s why we strongly recommend indoor masking in schools.”