PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In its first press conference since transitioning to monthly public COVID-19 briefings, the Oregon Health Authority said the emergency phases of the pandemic are over — but cases are rising and hospitalizations likely will, too.

“In Oregon, the emergency phases of the COVID-19 response have ended. However, the pandemic is not over,” said Dr. Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist.

Jeanne reminded the public that several measures are still in place, including vaccination requirements for workers in health care, schools and child care. Masks are still required in health care and long-term care settings.

Nevertheless, Jeanne said Oregon’s response to the pandemic has been better than other states’ because of residents’ choices to get vaccinated, wear masks and socially distance.

“Our state has avoided the worst outcomes seen in many other states,” he said. “Oregon continues to rank among the most successful states in the country in our response.”

Wednesday’s press conference comes just two days after a federal judge struck down a mandate requiring travelers nationwide to wear masks in airports and on airplanes, buses, trains and local public transportation.

Multiple major airlines repealed policies requiring masks following the decision, and the Transportation Security Administration stopped enforcing the rule. The Biden administration has stated it is waiting for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before choosing whether to appeal the ruling.

By Monday afternoon, the mask mandate at Portland International Airport was also lifted. On Tuesday, TriMet and C-TRAN announced riders and employees would no longer need to wear masks either.

The state health authority’s press conference is also its first since early March and reflects a continued easing in how often Oregon health officials have been relaying data. The decision to limit the frequency of reporting COVID-19 information came as cases continued to decline following the surge of the Omicron variant.

Health officials said on Wednesday that Oregon has continued to see a “relatively low” number of people being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19, averaging fewer than 100 patients a day in April, but daily case counts have risen during the month.

The half-hour press conference began at 11 a.m. and can be viewed in the video player below. Story continues after video.

Jeanne said the drop in hospitalizations was “significant” compared to the more than 1,100 patients hospitalized per day during the Delta and Omicron surges. In contrast, the deputy state health officer said daily cases in Oregon have risen from 200 and 300 per day in early April to about 600 per day as of Tuesday.

The reason: Jeanne said it’s likely tied to lower mask usage following the repeal of mandates and Oregonians regrouping for social activities for the first time since the pandemic started. Even so, he said official case counts could be under-reporting the true spread of COVID-19 if those with positive results from at-home tests aren’t reporting them.

“We also know that we are confronting a particularly stubborn adversary, this time in the form of an Omicron subvariant known as BA.2,” Jeanne said. “[It] is now the dominant variant in Oregon as it is in much of the country.”

Because hospitalizations are what officials call a “lagging indicator” and trail behind rising cases, OHA expects them to eventually increase, too. However, health officials anticipate the bump in hospitalizations to be “far below” what was seen during the Delta and initial Omicron surges.

Jeanne said high vaccination rates will help lower numbers Oregonians needing hospital care, too. He said more than 83% of all adults in the state have been vaccinated with about 75% of them having finished the series of shots.

On April 4, OHA stopped sending daily press releases on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in favor of publishing the data directly to its website. OHA also began publishing the data on vaccinations, tests and case counts every Wednesday in April.

The Data Report and Outbreak Report is now published once every two weeks on Wednesdays, and the Breakthrough Report is published monthly.

Health officials have said the change in reporting frequency, however, is not meant to signal an end to the pandemic and they are still monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

KOIN 6 News will have more information on the press conference throughout the day.