Washington and Oregon will soon drop mask requirements in health care settings, state health officials said Friday, 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 health care 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 April 3.
The decision came as data in recent weeks has shown decreases in 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,' Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health, said 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.'
Health care facilities and local public health agencies will have a month to prepare for the change and adjust their safety policies accordingly.
Some health care settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirements are lifted, officials said.