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Oregon will keep masks mandatory in health care settings, at least through flu season

A patient is cared for in the hallway of the Salem Health emergency department in Salem, Ore., in January 2022.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
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A patient is cared for in the hallway of the Salem Health emergency department in Salem, Ore., in January 2022.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently rescinded rules requiring universal masking in health care settings.

The rule change only applies to areas where transmission rates of COVID-19 are not high. Nearly half of Oregon’s 36 counties still fall into that category.

The Oregon Health Authority said despite the federal change, the state still will require masks in health care facilities at least through the respiratory virus season.

“Modeling shared from Oregon Health & Science University looking at the upcoming fall season suggests COVID-19 infections may begin to rise by November, even as more Oregonians receive the bivalent booster,” OHA said in a statement. “Fall is also the time when we see a rise in respiratory illnesses, including seasonal influenza.” OHA cited hospital capacity and health care worker shortages as additional reasons to remain cautious about virus transmission in the state.

“Oregon may see a flu season comparable to what we saw just before the pandemic, which may compound the impact of the pandemic on the state’s hospital systems,” the statement reads.

OHA said it is currently developing a plan that will define criteria when it will consider making changes to the current health care masking requirements. Updates to the plan will be shared in coming weeks.

PeaceHealth, one of the major health care providers in Oregon and Washington, said it will continue to require masks for patients, doctors and visitors.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Alex Hasenstab