SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced Wednesday that many COVID-19 response measures -- such as vaccination requirements, isolation recommendations, school testing, health coverage and reporting -- will be lifted. This follows the federal COVID-19 state of emergency that will be lifted on Thursday.
“These changes are an acknowledgement of the progress we’ve made over the last three-plus years,” Dean Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA, said in a news release. “However, we know COVID-19 will remain a part of our lives for years to come, so we need to continue taking steps that prevent its spread, such as staying up to date with vaccinations."
Some changes will take effect on Thursday, while others will start later this year. Below are some of the highlights.
Starting Thursday, health care workers will no longer be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the release said. Teachers and school staff in both public and private education settings will also not be required after June 17.
"(The vaccination requirement) will lift June 17, the end of the last week of school, to support consistency in student instruction through this school year," the release said.
Isolation after exposure
OHA will no longer recommend a five-day isolation period after testing positive for COVID-19, the release said. Instead, they recommend the person stay home until they have been fever free for 24 hours and notice an improvement in symptoms. After they leave the house, an infected person should wear a mask for 10 days and avoid vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness.
"Oregon public health officials believe widespread population immunity due to vaccination and repeated infections means many COVID-19 infections are now likely asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, and the five-day isolation period is doing little to reduce transmission," the release said.
Testing resources for school students and staff with symptoms will be available until July 31, 2024, the release said. iHealth self-tests will remain available until the current stock is depleted.
Weekly testing for students without symptoms will end on July 31, the release said.
Many benefits, such as extended health care coverage and extra, emergency food benefits will now end, the release said.
"Oregon began a 'redetermination' process April 1 to help people renew their OHP membership and other Medicaid benefits, and stay on the plan," the release said. "(We are) encouraging members to keep mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses current to ensure they receive information about their benefits in the coming months."
To learn more, visit the link below or call the ONE Customer Service Center at 800-699-9075 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
OHA will be changing how they monitor COVID-19, the release said, by transitioning into a model that mirrors how influenza is monitored. The new model will focus on transmission, hospitalizations and deaths. Case data, the current model which is based on individual tests, will be retired.
Reporting on COVID-19 will also change, with OHA epidemiologists posting weekly data to a smaller number of dashboards.
"Data visualizations will include graphs showing statewide percent positivity, wastewater levels and trends, distribution of variants, hospitalization rates and capacity, death counts, emergency department visit and vaccination trends," the release said. "Dashboards with case counts and county data will be archived."
What COVID-19 measures are staying?
COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be free to the public, the release said. Non-citizens will also still have 180 days -- a pandemic extension from 90 days -- to verify citizenship/immigration status so they can enroll in the Oregon Health Plan.
OHP providers will still be required to offer telehealth services.