Oregonians will be able to enter restaurants and bars maskless even sooner than expected. Today, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the mask mandates in their respective states will expire at 11:59 p.m. on March 11, meaning by March 12, diners throughout the West Coast can forgo their face coverings in indoor public spaces.
The mask mandate currently applies to all indoor public spaces in Oregon, including K-12 schools; school districts around the state have publicly pushed to remove mask requirements for weeks. When the mask mandate disappears, Oregonians will be able to go mask-free in restaurants, bars, and cafes, as well as schools; masks will still be required in health care settings and while using public transit. Business owners will be able to instate their own mask requirements if they wish.
This is the second time this month that Oregon has accelerated its timeline for lifting COVID-19 restrictions: In early February, the state announced that mask requirements would disappear by March 31. Last Friday, February 24, the Oregon Health Authority changed that deadline to March 19, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for COVID-19 safety.
The new CDC guidelines use a three-tier system, based on the rate of transmission and hospitalizations: In areas classified in the “high” category, residents should wear a mask indoors in public; in areas classified as “medium,” the CDC suggests immunocompromised populations ask their doctors about wearing masks in public. In areas designated “low,” however, the CDC only recommends people continue to stay up-to-date with vaccines and get tested when symptoms emerge. Currently, the CDC database suggests Multnomah County is at the “medium” community level; certain Oregon counties are classified as “high.” Oregon health officials still recommend that people in high-risk groups — including unvaccinated Oregonians, immunocompromised residents, those with underlying health conditions, and those 65 years of age and older — continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
“On the West Coast, our communities and economies are linked,” Brown said in a joint press release. “Together, as we continue to recover from the Omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic. As we learn to live with this virus, we must remain vigilant to protect each other and prevent disruption to our schools, businesses, and communities––with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable and the people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
Updated Monday, February 28 at 5:07 p.m.: This story has been updated to include information about private business mask requirements.