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Southern Oregon COVID numbers trending downward as mask mandate ends

Mika Baumeister

Indoor mask mandates were lifted across Oregon on Saturday. The change comes amidst a sharp decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations in Southern Oregon, despite lower vaccination rates in the region.

In the last week, Josephine, Coos and Klamath counties all averaged fewer than 15 cases per day.

“For the past several weeks we’ve seen a decline in the number of patients who are coming in to the hospital to be admitted with COVID symptoms or COVID as a diagnosis," says Lauren Van Sickle a spokesperson with the Asante hospital system in the Rogue Valley. “However, we are still seeing that the majority of the people who are coming in are unvaccinated.”

Around 70% of Asante’s COVID patients are unvaccinated, Van Sickle says.

Vaccination rates remain low for elementary school-age children in Southern Oregon. Districts now have the authority to decide on their own mask requirements.

Although most people are happy about the mandate being lifted there are some anxieties about the change, according to Klamath County Public Health Director Jennifer Little.

“We’re simply advocating for folks to make the decision that’s best for them. If they are vulnerable or live with a vulnerable person, we absolutely encourage them to continue wearing a mask,” Little says.

The Oregon Health Authority recommends people who are immunocompromised to continue wearing face coverings after the indoor requirement is lifted. Masks will continue to be required in Oregon in medical settings and on public transportation.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.