May 11, 2022

Updated May 12

With COVID cases, emergency department and urgent care diagnoses all increasing in Multnomah County along with hospitalizations and outbreaks, Public Health strongly urges people to wear masks indoors until cases and hospitalizations drop back down. 

The recommendation for voluntary indoor masking this week is the latest example of how we live with COVID. 

“When local public health sees disease activity go up, we want to make sure the public knows about the risk and know what they can do that will help. We also want them to be up-to-date on their COVID vaccine, to stay home if  sick, and wear a mask indoors for the next few weeks,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “We are not asking employers, organizations or event planners to do anything differently; this is a message for individuals, especially those who are at high risk of severe COVID.”

Health officials recommend all people step up their precautions for now, with special attention to people who are at higher risk of severe disease. Along with masking indoors, people should make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccines, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home if they feel sick — even if it's not with COVID-19. Additionally, anyone who knows they’ve had a recent exposure to someone with COVID-19 should make sure to wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after the exposure and to test on day 5. 

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

The role of Public Health is to alert the public to changes in COVID activity so people can take steps to avoid getting sick, but officials have emphasized that any new mandates will be reserved for big changes in the virus. This late spring increase in cases from the relatively mild omicron subvariant has not caused experts to consider such measures.

Regional partners agree that masking is an effective way to lower the risk of illness, and each County must made recommendations that are best for their communities. 

Multnomah County considers several local indicators in addition to the CDC risk matrix: not only cases, but outbreaks, hospitalizations, and disruption to services because of illness, to name a few. CDC guidance always allows for local public health to respond to conditions on the ground. Urging individuals to mask indoors for the next few weeks is our best advice for keeping people healthy and active.

“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 Vines. “We want to minimize the spread of illness so that people stay well and can attend all the spring events they have planned.”