The Oregon Health Authority lifted outdoor mask requirements for large public gatherings on Wednesday, ending the three-month-long mandate as COVID infections trend downward from the most recent surge. Health officials said mask mandates, as well as a gradual increase in vaccinations, have helped reduce transmission rates.
"While it's too soon to lift all mask precautions, we can remove the outdoor mask requirement for crowded public settings," said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon's state health officer. "We're not seeing these settings fueling large outbreaks. Oregonians can interact with others outdoors without putting themselves and others at high risk, especially if they are vaccinated."
The announcement coincides with the Oregon Department of Education's new testing protocol for students and school staff. The tests are available for unvaccinated asymptomatic people who may have been exposed to COVID. The testing protocols hope to maintain in-person learning in what would have earlier caused a quarantine.
"It's important to remember that if an individual is vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19, they do not have to take a COVID-19 test to stay in school or quarantine," ODE Director Colt Gill said. Tests will be free for students and staff who participate, and are available to all Oregon schools.