PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority says it expects to file “permanent” rules on Friday for mask requirements in K-12 schools, as well as vaccination requirements for educators and staff.
Friday’s announcement does not include the statewide indoor mask mandate. State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a briefing that officials are still going over public comments before proceeding, which will most likely happen in the next week or two.
Permanent rules can be repealed by state agencies, which happened in 2021 before the Delta variant began to surge. By definition, temporary rules are only valid for 180 days.
“State health officials emphasized that the rule filing will maintain masking protections during the current Omicron surge,” OHA said in a statement. “State officials are developing measures to determine when it may be safe to lift the school mask rule.”
The statewide indoor mask mandate, a temporary rule, is currently set to expire February 8.
At Friday’s briefing, Dr. Sidelinger underlined that permanent rules can be loosened or rescinded as conditions change, pointing to COVID-19 hospitalizations that are nearing the Delta variant peak.
“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,” he said. “What we know right now is that those numbers are still increasing but are anticipated to peak soon – within the next week to week and a half – and then are anticipated to come down rather quickly.”
Sidelinger said that the Omicron surge in hospitalizations will likely drop more quickly than Delta, due to a shorter average length of stay and need for critical care.
“So I would anticipate, in the coming weeks to month and a half, that we will see a significant decrease in the number of people with COVID in the hospital,” Sidelinger continued, “and at that time it’ll be a time to start talking about ‘Can we move from a requirement for masks in indoor public spaces to a recommendation for certain populations or in certain communities where rates are higher?’”
Sidelinger insisted that Oregonians have a major role in determining whether hospitals will have the necessary capacity for patients in the days ahead. The means have become a familiar refrain — get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks indoors or in crowded outdoor spaces, keep gatherings small, and stay home if you are sick.
Oregon administrative rules expected to be filed today with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office:
- OAR 333-019-1015 – Masking Requirements in Schools.
- OAR 333-019-1030 – COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Teachers and School Staff.
Rules expected to be filed on Jan. 31 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.
Filing of the permanent rules follows a public comment period that began Dec. 10 and ended Jan. 24. Written comments were accepted, and there were three public hearings – one on Jan. 20 that covered the indoor spaces masking rule, and two on Jan. 24 for the school masking and vaccination rules, and health care settings masking and vaccination rules.
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