The Oregon Health Authority heard a steady stream of opposition Thursday to its plan to extend the state’s indoor mask mandate indefinitely. Speaker after speaker objected to the state’s current mask requirements, arguing many other states have ended such rules and Oregon should follow suit.

Oregon’s temporary indoor mask rule is set to expire next month. But health officials concerned about rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have proposed extending the mask requirement through a permanent rule. Health officials have said they will rescind that when it’s no longer needed. Elizabeth Moore of Portland was among numerous people who testified against.

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“First and foremost, I think it’s pretty clear especially from the testimony already given — the people simply don’t trust you guys anymore,” Moore said. “We don’t believe that you’re going to take into account the best interests of Oregonians, and we don’t believe you’re going to repeal this.”

A sign at Hillsboro Online Academy in Oregon indicates that the mask mandate is in place. Since 2021, Oregon has had temporary mask mandates which expire after 180 days. Oregon Health Authority is now considering a permanent rule which would leave the mandate in place until it is deemed no longer necessary.

A sign at Hillsboro Online Academy in Oregon indicates that the mask mandate is in place. Since 2021, Oregon has had temporary mask mandates which expire after 180 days. Oregon Health Authority is now considering a permanent rule which would leave the mandate in place until it is deemed no longer necessary.

Elizabeth Miller / OPB

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While state and national health officials and scientists have underscored the importance of wearing well-fitting face coverings as a way to reduce the likelihood of viral transmission, many people argued to OHA that masks are not effective against COVID-19.

Others argued the mask requirement had too many negative effects on Oregonians.

A few people who are hearing impaired said masks interfere with their ability to communicate by making it impossible for them to read lips.

One man testified that wearing a mask wasn’t safe for him, because he had a lung condition and couldn’t easily breathe in a face covering.

Several parents said they’re worried about the effects on children’s development, including one father who lamented that his 8-year-old child couldn’t remember life before wearing masks.

Oregon health officials said this is the only hearing planned, but that written testimony will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Jan. 24.

According to an email from a health authority official, “OHA will review the comments and decide whether the proposed rules need updating or remain as is. OHA would then file the rule with the Secretary of State’s office in late-January/early February.”

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