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COVID-19 levels ‘high’ across most of Oregon, feds say, urging masks indoors

OregonLive.com logo OregonLive.com 7/1/2022 Fedor Zarkhin, oregonlive.com

Most Oregonians should wear masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, according to federal health guidance, with 24 counties now seeing “high” levels of COVID-19.

At that risk level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to wear masks in indoor public places and get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms.

Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties are among those the CDC now says have high levels of COVID-19, as determined by occupied hospital beds, admissions and total cases. The state’s other 12 counties are seeing medium community levels of COVID-19.

The Oregon Health Authority recommends people in the high-level counties wear masks regardless of vaccination status, but does not plan to reinstate a public indoor mask mandate, a spokesperson for the agency said in an email.

“The indoor masking requirements were lifted because the impact of COVID-19 has decreased in Oregon in several ways, including hospitalizations with COVID-19,” Rudy Owens said.

Officials representing Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties all said their respective counties supported federal health officials’ mask recommendations, but made no indications of impending mandates.

Multnomah County’s top health official questioned whether its “high” COVID-19 designation matched the true risk on the ground, attributing the new status to delayed data uploads. While acknowledging “there is a lot of local COVID spread,” Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines also pointed to fewer COVID-19 emergency department and urgent care visits in the county than in the spring.

The county in May proactively stepped ahead of federal recommendations and recommended indoor masking. The county didn’t mandate masks at the time, and it has no plans to do so now. That would change only if the virus evolves to cause more severe disease, the county said.

The health authority urged Oregonians anticipating the holiday weekend to remember the virus is widespread.

“Consider spending more time outside with friends and family over indoor activities,” the Oregon Health Authority said in a tweet Thursday evening. “If you’re indoors, wearing the highest quality mask you can find offers extra protection.”

When federal health officials last updated county COVID-19 levels one week ago, only nine Oregon counties had high community levels, and nine others had low levels.

Identified infections are averaging about 1,600 new cases a day. Nearly 420 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, and more than 14% of all reported COVID-19 tests in Oregon reported that day came back positive, according to state data.

“We recommend that all Oregonians stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and get tested if they have symptoms,” Owens said. “People who are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease are also recommended to take additional precautions if needed.”

— Fedor Zarkhin

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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