Mask, vaccine rules issued by Oregon Health Authority for schools, health care facilities

The Oregon Health Authority today is expected to file permanent rules requiring health care workers to wear masks, and in most settings to be fully vaccinated.

The rules come after similar rules were issued on Friday regarding schools. Those rules mandated masking indoors for K-12 schools, and required school and school-based program staff to be vaccinated. The permanent rules replace temporary rules, which are only valid for 180 days.

 

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A press release from the health authority said state health officials hope the rules will maintain masking protections during the omicron surge. State officials are developing measures to determine when it will be safe to lift the school mask mandate.

At a news conference on Friday, Dean Sidelinger, state health officer, said while the rules are permanent, the health authority can loosen or rescind them as pandemic conditions change. Measuring hospitalizations will be key in their considerations. Hospitalizations are expected to peak within the next week, and decline rapidly.

“We need to look at the number of COVID-19 positive folks in the hospital who are receiving care and the impact on the ability of the hospitals to provide care,” Sidelinger said.

It’s expected that a decrease in hospitalizations will happen faster than during the delta surge last fall.

The school-specific orders include:

  • OAR 333-019-1015 – Masking Requirements in Schools.
  • OAR 333-019-1030 – COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Teachers and School Staff.

The health care-specific orders include:

  • OAR 333-019-1010 – COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement for Healthcare Providers and Healthcare Staff in Healthcare Settings.
  • OAR 333-019-1011 – Masking Requirements to Control COVID-19 in Health Care Settings.

Omicron has brought the highest level of COVID cases to Oregon. According to projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the peak of new infections statewide likely occurred in early January. Hospital use still remains high. However, within the next few days it is expected to begin decreasing. After the omicron wave runs its course, researchers are expecting an extended period of time where cases and community transmission will remain low.