CDC Recommends Masking in Multnomah as BA. 5 Spreads

The CDC says people in high risk counties, including in the Portland area, should consider wearing a mask indoors as local authorities track the new variants.

By Fiona McCann and Julia Silverman July 12, 2022

Hot summer temperatures may make masking more onerous, but COVID-19 has other ideas, and a rise in cases fueled at least in part by new omicron subvariants mean the CDC guidance on mask recommendations has recently changed for a number of counties around Oregon.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends masks based on transmission in your community, calculated by combining three different metrics: new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 in the past seven days, the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days. Based on this data, the CDC classifies counties as low, medium, or high, though given how many cases go unreported due to home testing and asymptomatic cases, the latter number is believed to be significantly undercounted.

For counties classified as low, little changes, while high risk individuals living in counties with a medium classification are recommended to talk to their healthcare provider about what precautions might be necessary. For high risk counties, including Multnomah County, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors—ideally a KN95 or N95 mask—when in public. 

The state of Oregon is not requiring masks indoors, except at health care settings. Local health officials have said that's because hospitalization and intensive care unit admissions, while rising, are still well below levels experienced in previous waves.

According to the latest forecast released by Oregon Health & Sciences University, cases were originally expected to peak today, July 12, with 479 people in the hospital statewide. (Worth noting: According to that same forecast, only about 200 of those are in the hospital because of COVID, the rest people who were admitted for other reasons and then were found to be COVID positive on admission.) 

Local health officials do say they are keeping a wary eye on the latest Omicron sub variant, BA 5. There is no evidence that BA 5 causes more severe disease than its predecessors, but it is extremely transmissible and may have even more vaccine-evading potential than previous omicron strains. As of July 12, the Oregon Health Authority was still reporting that a previous strain, BA 2, was fueling the majority of cases in the state, but public health officials say that due to data delays, and the rise of at-home testing and cases that subsequently go unreported to the state, BA5 is likely significantly more prevalent than officials counts would suggest. Its most common symptoms include a sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue.

Here’s where all Oregon counties currently rank on the CDC's scale.


Baker County
Clackamas County
Coos County
Curry County
Jackson County
Josephine County
Klamath County
Lake County
Malheur County
Multnomah County
Umatilla County
Union County
Wallowa County
Washington County


Benton County
Clatsop County
Columbia County
Crook County
Deschutes County
Douglas County
Grant County
Jefferson County
Lane County
Marion County
Morrow County
Polk County
Sherman County
Tillamook County
Wasco County


Gilliam County
Harney County
Hood River County
Lincoln County
Linn County
Wheeler County         
Yamhill County

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