COVID-19 public health emergency ends: Here’s what Oregonians need to know

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — After more than three years, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the federal COVID-19 public health emergency came to an end on May 11.

What does this mean for Oregon?

Oregon healthcare workers are no longer required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But the requirement for educators will lift at the end of the school year — on June 17.

“I think it will help our students in school to have consistent classroom instruction as they get through this next phase of our response to the pandemic,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). 

Oregon has also lifted the 5-day isolation period recommendation for those exposed to COVID-19. This includes the general public and K-12 schools. Oregon health officials say this is because of widespread immunity. Meaning many COVID infections are now likely asymptomatic, and the 5-day isolation window is doing little to reduce transmission.

“We ask individuals, if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, to stay home while they are sick until they start to recover,” said Sidelinger. “Until they started to recover — and in those 10 days they got sick — to consider limiting their contact with others who are particularly high risk.”

OHA said they will no longer report COVID-19 cases weekly but will start tracking cases similar to how they track flu cases.

“We will continue to do wastewater sampling across many communities in Oregon,” said Sidelinger. “This allows us to detect COVID-19 spread in the community and a level of spread in the community, regardless of whether people get care or get tested.”

Despite all the changes, here are a few things that will carry on after Thursday.

Oregon Health Plan providers will continue to give COVID-19 vaccinations and treatment at no cost, offer free access to telehealth services and a language interpreter during an office visit.

“You know, all of us involved in the response can look back at things that knowing what we know now we may have changed,” said Sidelinger. “But I think we have to look at the critical outcomes and how we compared to other states and feel good about our overall response.”

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