PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon is joining Washington and California in ending indoor mask mandates next week. Starting at midnight on Saturday March 12, masks will be “recommended” instead of “required” indoors in Oregon. 

Just hours after Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office made the announcement Monday morning, Oregon Health Authority leaders met with the media to explain the rationale behind the decision.

At a media briefing Monday afternoon Oregon State Epidemiologist, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, said that a recent, steep decrease in hospitalizations in the state led officials to adjust the mandate drop date to March 11, rather than the March 19 date that Governor Brown’s office and the OHA announced last week.

“Hospital numbers will continue to go down, as will cases,” Sidelinger said. “Despite very dark moments, the tools we have in place to keep people safe from the virus are working.”

Officials say there has been a 57% drop in COVID-related hospitalizations in the past month and could drop below pre omicron-surge levels by the end of next week.

The announcement Monday from Brown’s office also reminds Oregonians that state policies do not change federal requirements, which still require the use of masks on public transit, in health care settings and other specialized settings.

Monday’s announcement from Oregon officials mirrors similar announcements out of Washington and California. That keeps mask mandates relatively cohesive across the borders of West Coast states.

Brown said the three states made the decision together because “On the West Coast, our communities and economies are linked.” 

In a statement, she said, “Together, as we continue to recover from the Omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic. As we learn to live with this virus, we must remain vigilant to protect each other and prevent disruption to our schools, businesses, and communities––with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable and the people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

At the same media briefing Monday, Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education said his department would release new guidelines about masking at schools on Wednesday.