PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It appears school districts will be able to make their own masking requirements on March 31, but not any sooner.

During a press conference Friday morning, health and education officials gave an update on what schools can expect when the state-wide mask mandate is lifted.

After March 31, masking and other COVID protocols will return to local control meaning schools can make decisions based on how COVID is impacting their individual community.

This comes after the Oregon Health Authority announced Monday it would be repealing the mask mandate by March 31. OHA said state health officials would consider lifting the general indoor mask requirement earlier than March 31 if hospitalizations decline to the levels projected by the end of March sooner than expected. However, mask requirements for schools will be lifted on March 31. 

“Just because the mask requirement is going away doesn’t mean masks are going away,” said State health officer and state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

By the end of March, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill says the ODE believes the omicron surge will have plateaued enough that schools will be able to make independent decisions based on COVID impacts on a community level.

ODE has reportedly created protocols for districts based on state-wide recommendations rather than individual communities.

COVID protocols returning to local control means schools will make recommendations based on vaccination rates, its ability to socially distance students and how well the school is able to keep case numbers down.

COVID is losing its momentum as it appears the worst of the omicron has passed. However, Sidelinger says “we are still not free of its grip.”

Just one day after OHA’s mask update, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Washington would repeal its outdoor mask mandate by Feb. 18. Inslee said updates on lifting the indoor mask mandate could come as early as next week.

Watch Friday’s full OHA COVID briefing below