Healthcare masking requirement to end

PORTLAND, Ore. — Washington and Oregon will soon drop mask requirements in healthcare settings, moving to lift the last major masking requirements meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Mandates in both states will end on April 3, meaning healthcare 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 will also end on April 3.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Healthcare plan to have more information soon on how they will handle the lifting of the mandate.

“Our Infection Prevention Manager and COVID Physicians will discuss this change from the State and our next steps as more information becomes available from OSHA and L&I in the coming weeks,” said Amy Yaley, director of communications for Jefferson Healthcare.

“We too are discussing this change with the state, our local health officer, and other authorities,” said Bobby Beeman, director of communications for Olympic Medical Center.

Neither Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, nor a representative from Forks Community Hospital could be reached for comment Monday.

The statewide decision came as data in recent weeks has shown decreases in the 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,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health, 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.”

Healthcare facilities and local public health agencies will have a month to prepare for the change and adjust their safety policies accordingly.

Some healthcare settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirements are lifted, officials said.

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Peninsula Daily News contributed to this report.

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