PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Washington and Oregon dropped mask requirements in health care settings Monday, moving to lift the last major masking requirements meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We had multiple patients that were excited to not have to wear a masks. but also many were still wearing masks today because of their sick symptoms,” said Physician Assistant at High Lakes Urgent Care in Bend.
The move, announced last month, means health care workers, patients and visitors will no longer be required to wear a mask in facilities including hospitals, urgent care centers and dental and doctors’ offices. Washington’s mask requirements in correctional facilities were also set to end Monday.
“Most of the people were complying with that or happy to wear a mask and patients even asked if they were if I felt comfortable with them not wearing a mask today,” said Churchman. “So everyone was very kind and adherent with all that. No, no problems at all.”
The decision came as data in recent weeks has shown decreases in circulation of COVID-19, RSV and the flu, the three respiratory viruses that triggered a surge in visits to hospitals last fall, state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said in a news release from the Oregon Health Authority.
The Washington Department of Health also said disease rates and hospitalizations have continued to decline since the end of last year.
“Masks have been – and will continue to be – an important tool, along with vaccinations, to keep people healthy and safe,” Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health, said in a news release. “We are thankful for our health and long-term care providers, staff members, patients, and all Washingtonians, for following the important public health measures put in place during the pandemic to protect one another.”
Some health care settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirements are lifted, officials said.
“Between coworkers at least it was kind of odd like, Oh wow, I haven’t seen your face in a long time or even patient and so that was nice to be able to see people again and feel like we’re, you know, breathing fresh air again, but so everyone is genuinely has been excited for this day to come,” Churchman said.
Central Oregon Daily News contributed to this report.