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Oregon lifts outdoor mask mandate; indoor mask rules remain

The outdoor mask mandate had been in place since Aug. 27, when Oregon became the first state to restore the statewide rule amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Credit: stock.adobe.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced Tuesday morning that it's lifting the state's outdoor mask mandate, effective immediately.

"This rule was implemented in August at the peak of this most recent surge," said OHA Director Patrick Allen. "This decision takes effect immediately and reflects the overall progress we have seen on the COVID-19 front here in Oregon."

Allen said the decision was made after close consultation with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and her advisers. The new mask guidance shouldn't keep people from wearing masks in any setting if it makes them feel more safe, Allen said.

"Mask wearing for people who are unvaccinated, or for the elderly, for immunocompromised people, or people at higher risk for contracting the disease and for people who are living with someone in one of these categories is still strongly recommended," Allen said. "Mask wearing is still recommended for people who are in crowded outdoor settings for an extended period."

According to the New York Times, on Aug. 27, Oregon became the first state to restore a statewide mask mandate that required masks indoors and outdoors, whether people were vaccinated or not. While many other states lifted their mandates, Oregon kept its in place even as daily cases and hospitalizations decreased over the past two months.

Oregon's daily number of reported COVID-19 cases have been trending downward for about two months. The state's daily number of reported cases dropped below 1,000 on two weekdays last week, for the first time since July, according to OHA data.

Oregon's indoor mask mandate remains in effect.

The lifting of the outdoor mask mandate was announced during a news conference Tuesday morning with members of OHA and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

During the news conference on Tuesday, ODE announced if students are exposed to COVID-19 in a school setting with masks, they can now remain in school as long as they test negative for COVID-19. The new "test-to-stay" protocol does not apply to students exposed during extra-curricular activities or outside school. The ODE said their aim is to keep kids in class, unless they have to quarantine.

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The news conference comes days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and one day after the OHA reported that more than 5,000 Oregonians have died from COVID-19. The agency reported 103 new deaths over the weekend, raising the state's death toll to 5,017.

On Nov. 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized booster shots for all adults. Anyone 18 or older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose, or two months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People can mix and match boosters from any company. Over the weekend, Oregon health officials opened up booster shot access for all adults at pharmacies, clinics and other providers statewide.