Mask mandate stays in place for Oregon health care settings

Update (2/28/2022): Oregon’s mask mandates for schools and most indoor public settings will be lifted on March 12.

No matter when Oregon’s indoor mask requirement is lifted, there are several places across the state where masks will still be required — health care settings.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations trend downward, health care settings continue to be places where people who are most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19 gather. “People who seek care are often more at risk for complications,” says Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S. Ed., state epidemiologist and health officer. “They may be immunocompromised or have underlying conditions that they’re seeking care for, and they may visit health care settings more often because they need more care.”

With so many vulnerable people gathering in one place, Oregon Health Authority wants to ensure they have the protection a mask mandate offers, Sidelinger said.

A female doctor speaking to a female patient in a hospital exam room

It’s also important to consider all the different ways COVID-19 can enter and spread in a health care setting, such as a hospital or long-term care facility. In addition to providers and patients, staff come and go, providing all sorts of services.

“We have to remember that it takes a team to provide any level of care in a health care setting,” Sidelinger said. “There are the nutrition folks who deliver meals and make sure people are fed, the pharmacist who delivers prescriptions, the administrative support staff, plus the people cleaning and turning over rooms who come to pick up the laundry — everyone in that setting is in close proximity to each other.”

In addition, there are couriers or vendors who interact with people and leave, visiting multiple facilities daily, which carries a significant risk of being exposed or transmitting COVID-19.

“That’s why the mask mandate in health care settings is broad and not just targeted on that interaction at the bedside,” Sidelinger said.

For these reasons, Oregon’s mask mandate in health care settings will remain in place, for now. “We all need health care at one time or another,” Sidelinger said. “All of us deserve to receive quality care without facing significant risks in seeking that care.”

For more information about the mask mandate in health care settings, check out these frequently asked questions.