Most parents in Oregon say educators have been keeping their kids safe during the COVID-19 pandemic as the state's mask mandate comes to an end Saturday, March 12.
While coronavirus outbreaks in schools haven't been a recent problem, just under half of parents said outbreaks in schools in their area had been a problem in the month prior to completing an early February survey. Meanwhile 64% of Oregon parents thought their area's K-12 schools were doing a good job keeping students safe and minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center's survey, which was conducted before state officials announced that the mask mandate would end no later than March 31, found that 81% of Oregonians were at least somewhat concerned about hospitals being too short-staffed to treat all patients.
Susannah Krug, who has three school-age children, said she was nervous about the end of the mask mandate.
"I'm glad about it ending for children, since I didn't think it was fair they were carrying the burden of our failure to control the spread," Krug said.
But Krug, a North Plains resident whose job involves daily face-to-face interactions with different people, said she'll likely continue wearing a mask.
Krug said her three children — an elementary schooler, middle schooler and high schooler in Hillsboro public schools — have never loved wearing masks.
"But now that the prospect is on the table that they can take them off, possibly next week, they're not thrilled about that idea," Krug said. "(They) just feel really cautious about it."
Both Krug and Aimee Wood, a parent of two Tigard-Tualatin School District students, said they had told their kids that they could decide whether to continue masking or not. But Wood said she doubts her family will continue wearing masks — unless a new variant comes or case numbers start to rise.
"They've been wearing masks, which I supported when the case numbers were high, but based on where the numbers are right now in Oregon and our county, I think it makes sense to remove them," Wood said.
Liberals were four times more likely than conservatives to say they were "very concerned" with hospitals in their region not having enough beds for everyone requiring hospitalization.
As of March 10, Northwest Oregon had 276 adult ICU beds occupied and 46 beds open.
There currently are 300 COVID patients hospitalized across Oregon, with 55 in ICUs.
Wood said she wasn't at all concerned with hospital capacity as of early March, but had been at previous points over the past two years, like last August and September when the delta variant was surging.
Bryan Hadley, a Medford resident with only his youngest child still in school, said he was glad the mask mandate was ending but wished it had ended sooner.
"I feel it's about time," Hadley said. "My personal opinions are that we should have our own choice whether to do it or not. If people want to mask up, that's totally fine. And if they don't, that's totally fine."
Hadley also has an older child at home who is at high risk for a more serious case of COVID-19, so he said his family has been cautious about that and was previously more concerned about hospital capacity.
Daily new COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate have dropped since January, the most recent surge, with fewer than 500 cases per day, as of the week of March 11.
Those numbers represent a steep drop from the first weeks of 2022, when an average of more than 7,700 cases were reported each day.
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The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is committed to the highest level of public opinion research. To help obtain that, the nonprofit is building a large research panel of Oregonians to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.
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