Responding to the Spring COVID-19 Surge in Oregon

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To:         Superintendents, Principals, Charter School Leaders, ESD Reopening Advisors,
              Private School Leaders and Partners
Date:     April 23, 2021
From:   Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education
RE:       Responding to the Spring COVID-19 Surge in Oregon

Today Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) shared that Oregon is facing a significant surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Governor Brown said, “Right now in the race between vaccines and variants, the variants are gaining ground and have the upperhand. Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking 2nd in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread.

Oregonians again need to take action to protect one another and especially our neighbors and family members who are most at-risk. Governor Brown noted that about a third of our counties may need to move to the extreme risk level on Friday, April 30, returning more efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Brown offered hope for this summer, “My goal is to get the state back on track to lift the restrictions this pandemic has forced upon us, so we can all return to seeing the people we love and doing the things we miss.” In order to reach that goal, we will all need to work together to win this race.  

How are schools impacted?

Today’s announcements do not immediately impact the operation of schools. The Governor’s Executive Order 21-06 calling for in-person instruction stands. Districts do have local discretion within the RSSL metrics to reduce in-person instruction within cohorts or across the school if they are experiencing transmission in the school environment. Schools in counties in extreme risk may have impacts on full-contact sports

Transmission in school environments remain very rare in our state. We are seeing transmission in school communities through activities around schools (including carpooling, gatherings in homes, sports, and other social activities). 

In light of increasing cases, hospitalizations and variants of concern that are more transmissible, OHA is now recommending 14-day quarantine for all unvaccinated contacts in all settings, including schools. A 14-day quarantine is the lowest risk approach and helps reduce spread from asymptomatic people, which we know is a significant contributor in this pandemic. This change has been shared with local public health authorities (LPHAs). As most of you are aware, these quarantines destabilize the educational environment. Redoubling efforts around entry screening and making sure families know not to send their children to school when they have symptoms or have had a close contact with someone with COVID-19 will help to reduce the impact of COVID-19. 

What you can do?

Schools can help us overcome this surge: 

  1. Be sure your school is following all the health and safety protocols in the RSSL guidance as closely as possible. Following this guidance is keeping our schools open and our students and staff safe.
  2. Schools are one of the most trusted communicators for Oregon families. Please use your voice to encourage families to wear their face coverings, keep physical distancing, and limit group gatherings. Cases in the school community impact your ability to deliver a stable educational program and impact our ability to keep our classrooms open. 
  3. Encourage everyone 16 and up to get vaccinated. Vaccines are absolutely key to moving Oregon forward. The overwhelming majority of our new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are people who have not yet been vaccinated. We are seeing younger Oregonians in the hospital now, as well as people who had no underlying health conditions. Every Oregonian age 16 and older can now sign up to get their vaccine. Let’s help make this happen. 

If you have questions please do not hesitate to contact us at Thank you!