Oregon drops outdoor mask mandate; no end in sight for indoor mask rules

A vendor wears a mask at Salem’s Saturday Market on April 4, 2020. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Oregonians no longer need to wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, state health officials announced Tuesday.

Oregon Health Authority director Pat Allen said during a Tuesday news conference that the rule is no longer needed as the state has recorded declines in the number of Covid cases and hospitalizations. The rule has been in effect since Aug. 27.

Oregon was the only U.S. state requiring masks routinely outdoors, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Washington, the only other state with any outdoor mask requirements, only applies the rule to gatherings with more than 500 people.

Masks remain required indoors in public places in Oregon, with some exceptions. Allen said the state does not have a target or metric it will use to decide when to lift that rule. He said the delta variant has made it clear that the virus is becoming less predictable.

“We don’t want to set a metric that looks good today but a month or two or three or whenever it is from now, all of a sudden turns out to be the wrong metric,” Allen said.

He said Oregonians should expect to continue masking indoors into 2022.

Correction: This article originally misstated Allen’s observation about the delta variant. He said it’s shown the virus is becoming less predictable, not more. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

-Rachel Alexander