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Central Oregon medical providers, patients react to end of OHA’s mask requirement in health care settings

(Update: Adding video, comments from St. Charles medical director, resident at hospital)

'I am really happy, actually, I don’t feel so suffocated anymore."; St. Charles still urges mask use

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – As of Monday, you no longer have to wear a mask when you visit the doctor, dentist, or any other Oregon health care provider, in most situations.

The Oregon Health Authority announced the move a month ago, to give clinics time to come up with their own policies. It also no longer requires health care providers to wear masks in medical settings.

Health care settings include but are not limited to hospitals, mobile clinics, ambulances, outpatient facilities, dental offices, urgent care centers, long-term care facilities, counseling offices, school-based health centers and complementary and alternative medicine locations.

One local resident at St. Charles Bend on Monday said it’s just easier to breathe without a mask.

"I am really happy, actually. I don’t feel so suffocated anymore," Marin Lee said Monday.

St. Charles Health System Medical Director Dr. Cynthia Maree said the change is a big step forward, after three years of masking.

"We had encouraging numbers of (cases) decreasing," Maree said. "Our viral transmission within our community has been going down. Hospitalizations have been going down."

OHA's move resulted from a steady decline in Covid-19 and RSV cases.

St. Charles Health System has been coming up with their own mask guidelines.

"Been doing some preparation over the last couple weeks, mostly with trying to make sure that we still continue to have our masking stations available for people when they enter our facilities, along with signage that really encourage people to wear masks," Maree said.

Statewide, OHA reports that for two consecutive weeks, positive test results for Covid-19 have fallen below 10%, positivity rates for influenza dropped below 5% and RSV rates were below 10%.

Last week, OHA also recorded fewer than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases and fewer than 25 Covid-19-related deaths.

Even with the drop of the mask mandate, each individual clinic has the authority to enforce regulations.

“Of course, if you have symptoms, we’re still requiring people to weak masks within our health care system," Maree said. "If there are patients who are wanting our caregivers to mask, they can request that.”

OHA also recommends wearing a mask if you’re immunodeficient, have underlying health concerns, are unvaccinated, live with others of risk of disease, or are 65 and older.

Patients without those risks welcome the no-mask mandate move.  

Lee said, “I think it’s a step in the right direction."

Maree said she's glad things are taking a turn back toward normal, but stressed the importance of masks, when it comes to safety.

“I just think it’s really important for people to remember that it is a valuable tool," she said. "And in the future, if we need to go back to masking, I hope people will understand the value of that tool in protecting our community."

The OHA mask order, which has been in effect since August 2021, was rescinded on Monday. To learn more, find additional information on OHA’s masking page:

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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