Clarifications and Updates on the COVID-19 Testing Program

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Clarifications and Updates on the COVID-19 Testing Program

Dear School and District Leaders,

The release of Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance on January 19 included information and requirements related to a new Oregon Health Authority (OHA) administered school testing program for COVID-19 using BinaxNow Antigen tests. 252 schools are now registered, many actively implementing the testing strategy as outlined by OHA

This testing program is available to all public and private schools in Oregon. It is required in some cases, but recommended for all schools operating in-person. It is a service to students and staff that can help to reduce disruption from COVID-19.

This email restates or clarifies key information about the program:

  1. Schools that choose to operate in-person through an On-Site or Hybrid Instructional Model in a county not meeting the metrics must offer the new school testing program by March 1 or by the time that decision would come into effect (if after March 1).

  2. Schools required to offer access to this program will have two-weeks to be registered, trained, and administering the program when or if metrics change in their county in a way that makes this program a requirement.

  3. The metrics found in the 0 Section, on page 17, of RSSL are what determines if a school is required to offer the program.

  4. The school testing program offers an additional risk-mitigation strategy that is relatively low-burden and can help offset impacts of operating when community spread is higher even if school transmission is low/absent and RSSL protocols are firmly in place. This requirement applies anytime a school is operating in an Instructional Model that is not aligned with the county metrics case data. This is true whether your school began operating in August/September, or took a pause, or opened on January 4th, or is just opening for the first time.

  5. This program is required for schools operating grades 6-12 in-person while in the Transition (Orange) column of the advisory metrics. While the metrics are advisory for determining instructional model, the testing program must also be offered if you are expanding grades while in the Transition (Orange) or Distance Learning (Red) columns and for all schools operating in-person while in the Distance Learning (Red) column. 

  6. Access to testing needs to be offered on-site at each school. Staff who work across schools may administer the testing program; however, exposed/symptomatic students and staff should not travel between schools for a test. For example, staff administering the program across multiple schools could be assigned to schools within very close distance (within 5 minutes) and could travel to offer the test.

  7. School districts that have a school based health center (SBHC) that offers on-site testing for COVID-19, even if it is at another campus, may opt out of the requirement for offering on-site testing using BinaxNOW if testing is available during all hours students are on campus during school hours and the school can offer transportation to the SBHC for families without the means to get to the site. There are important details about how this should be done which include:
  • Ensure face coverings. 
  • The passenger should sit as far away as possible from the driver.
  • The bigger the vehicle, the better, to allow distancing. Vans are better than cars since they allow for better distancing between the passenger and driver.
  • Travel with windows open or use the vehicle’s vents for fresh air circulation.
  • Avoid picking up other passengers.
  • Clean and disinfect the vehicle after transporting passengers who are suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19.
  • Follow cleaning and disinfection procedures every time. Doors and windows should remain open when cleaning the vehicle. When cleaning and disinfecting, wear disposable gloves that are meant to be used with the cleaning products as well as a mask. After cleaning, remove gloves and throw them in the trash.
  • Consider these additional transportation recommendations from the CDC.
  1. OHA offered a repeated series of webinars on the school testing program last week. A copy of the presentation slides and a recording of the full program with closed captioned will be provided as soon as available.  

  2. One aspect of the testing program that has needed additional clarification is on page 9 of the OHA Testing Strategy regarding how and when testing could be offered to a school cohort that has been exposed to a case of COVID-19 and quarantined. This aspect of the program isn’t testing symptomatic students. It is testing on days 5 through 7 following exposure where no symptoms are present. It is also only to be offered when recommended by the local public health authority. It is not a screening or serial testing program. You can email for more information on this aspect of the program. 

  3. Any formal complaints regarding schools who are required to offer access to the testing program will be processed through OSHA.