PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With omicron cases and hospitalizations dropping across the state, there could be a change coming for when Oregonians can stop wearing masks.
The current mask mandate is scheduled to be lifted by March 31, but COVID-19 data from the state’s hospitals suggest it could happen immediately following St. Patrick’s Day.
The decrease in COVID-related hospitalizations has been the main factor in timing the removal of indoor mask requirements for everyone regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
Health officials say the number of COVID patients in the hospital statewide needed to repeal the mandates is around 400.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state has more than double that figure, but getting to 400 — a point when the hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID cases — is forecasted to happen sooner than originally predicted.
“Instead of the end of March, it looks more like March 18 or so,” said Dr. Peter Graven, a data scientist with Oregon Health and Science University. “We will have a new forecast tomorrow, and that does look like this is a great drop to have at this time.”
The decision will ultimately be state health leaders’ and the governor’s to make. A mask recommendation would still likely be issued, especially for certain situations like crowds and for those who are unvaccinated or at high risk.
Any lifting of a mask mandate in mid-March does not include schools, however. That date is set for March 31.
Federal mask rules are set to remain in place until March 18, requiring passengers to wear a mask on a plane, train or bus.