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It's Time To Mask Up Again Indoors, Multnomah Officials Say

With COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise, Multnomah County health officials urge people to wear masks indoors, protect those at risk of severe illness.
Dr. Jennifer Vines, health officer of Multnomah County, shown discussing an uptick in HIV infections earlier in the pandemic. | MOTOYA NAKAMURA/MULTNOMAH COUNTY
May 12, 2022

Public health officials want people in Multnomah County to “pick up their masks” for use indoors as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

An announcement from the Multnomah County public health division on Wednesday cited a rise in cases as well as emergency department usage, hospitalizations, outbreaks and urgent care diagnoses. The call goes beyond federal recommendations.

“This is not a mandate but we are asking everyone to put their masks back on for a few weeks as they go to school, work and other indoor events,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer. “We want to minimize the spread of illness so that people stay well and can attend all the spring events they have planned.”

The advice is particularly important for those interacting with anyone at higher risk of severe disease, according to the county. If you’ve had a recent exposure to someone with COVID, the county suggests wearing a well-fitting mask around other people for 10 days after being exposed, and to test after five days.

“People who are at particularly high risk may want to avoid crowded indoor settings for the next few weeks,” according to the county.

A May 6 forecast issued by Oregon Health & Science University noted that cases are nearing the pandemic’s earlier peak for the Delta variant. But because the less-severe BA.2 variant of Omicron is now dominant, hospitalizations are growing at a much slower rate. Issued by economist Peter Graven, the report predicted COVID-related hospitalizations will peak at 321 on June 10, well below last fall’s peak of more than 1,100. 

The county announcement noted that hospitalizations have not increased among school-aged people, but said indoor masking remains “strongly recommended” in schools.

“In the context of schools, the academic success, social wellbeing and mental health of our kids should be a top priority,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer. “That’s why we strongly recommend indoor masking in schools.”

You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NickBudnick.