By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Oregon ending mask mandate and quarantine requirements

Even as the American Medical Association and virology experts criticize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for changing its metrics on COVID-19 transmission risk and backing off mask recommendations, Oregon is taking things a step further.

The state will lift its mask mandate on March 12, and will also end its quarantine requirement for people exposed to COVID-19, including in schools and daycares. COVID-19 can be spread before infected people develop symptoms.

Quarantines will still be required for people in congregate care, jails and health care settings. People who test positive for COVID-19, or have symptoms, still need to isolate themselves.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 696 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and four deaths. Its weekly report for last week showed that new cases and hospitalizations decreased, but deaths increased. Yamhill County reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The statewide rate of positive tests last week was at 6.4%; lower than it has been in months, but still above the 5% threshold considered high enough to warrant imposing restrictions.

The World Health Organization has recommended that the rate should be below 5% for at least two weeks, before governments consider relaxing restrictions. However, OHSU, which issues a weekly COVID-19 forecast, predicts that cases will continue to fall.

The state’s weekly report showed that last week, new cases declined 43% from the previous week, and hospitalizations declined 31%. As of Wednesday, the state reported that 15% of the state’s adult non-ICU hospital beds were available, and 7% of adult ICU beds. In Region 2, the six-county region encompassing Yamhill County, there were nine available adult ICU beds and 23 non-ICU beds available on Wednesday.

The state said there were 424 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Testing also declined by 13% last week. Deaths, however, increased to 137 from 111 the previous week.

On Feb. 25, the CDC announced that it was changing the metrics for how it classifies an area low, medium or high transmission, to focus on hospitalization, rather than number of cases — a change that overnight changed much of the United States from being declared very high transmission to low transmission areas.

At the same time, the CDC said that people no longer need to wear masks in areas declared low transmission, and should consult their doctors in medium transmission areas. People in high transmission areas should continue to mask, the agency said.

In response, Gerald
E. Harmon, M.D., President of the American Medical Association released a statement urging people to continue to wear masks.

“Even as some jurisdictions lift masking requirements, we must grapple with the fact that millions of people in the U.S. are immunocompromised, more susceptible to severe COVID outcomes, or still too young to be eligible for the vaccine,” Harmon wrote. “In light of those facts, I personally will continue to wear a mask in most indoor public settings, and I urge all Americans to consider doing the same, especially in places like pharmacies, grocery stores, on public transportation— locations all of us, regardless of vaccination status or risk factors, must visit regularly.

“Although masks may no longer be required indoors in many parts of the U.S., we know that wearing a well-fitted mask is an effective way to protect ourselves and our communities, including the most vulnerable, from COVID-19 — particularly in indoor settings when physical distancing is not possible.

“Wearing a mask, physical distancing, and staying home if you’re sick are small, but important protective measures that can help us all stay safe. While the Omicron surge has declined, COVID-19 is not gone. We must remain adaptable and vigilant in confronting this unpredictable virus,” he wrote.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools require all children and staff to wear masks.

Penn State University released a study in October showing that half of the people infected with COVID-19 continue to suffer symptoms six months later. The findings included both children and adults. Symptoms included fatigue, fever, decreased mobility, anxiety disorders, difficulty breathing, stomach pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea and decreased appetite, among others.

Other studies have shown that, although vaccination reduces the chances of developing long COVID, as many as one in 10 vaccinated people may still develop it.



Never mind all that. Time to jump to the next in Mencken's series of imaginary hobgoblins. And, I need not say what that is.

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