OHA Quarantine Duration Update

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

Date:  May 5, 2021

From: Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education

RE: OHA Quarantine Duration Update

I’m writing to clarify new information about quarantine requirements for close contacts articulated by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) on April 29. 

In light of increasing cases, hospitalizations and variants of concern that are more transmissible, OHA is now requiring 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 took place on April 29, when OHA updated the investigative guidelines (p. 12) and the quarantine guidelines to make 14 day quarantine mandatory (shorter quarantine is not permissible).

This requirement aligns with the CDC, which “continues to endorse quarantine for 14 days and recognizes that any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a small possibility of spreading the virus.”

What this means for local public health authorities (LPHAs) and school districts is that they 
cannot opt into a quarantine duration shorter than 14-days. 

OHA anticipates that a 14-day required quarantine for close contacts will remain in place for the foreseeable future. However, many fewer people should be needing to quarantine at all as we approach half of Oregonians fully vaccinated, and the more robust quarantine will help prevent asymptomatic spreading given the newer, more transmissible variants circulating. 

This change has been shared with local public health authorities (LPHAs). We all understand that quarantines destabilize the educational environment and create significant inconvenience for families. 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 on schools.

Schools can reduce the disruption of quarantine: 

  1. Be sure your school is following all the health and safety requirements in the RSSL guidance as closely as possible. Following this guidance is keeping our schools open and our students and staff safe. Quarantining is one of the health and safety protocols that prevents COVID--19 from spreading on school campuses. 
  2. At this time some LPHAs in Oregon have reached surge status and have more limited capacity for contact tracing. If your district has capacity you can help reduce the number of people that need to be quarantined by supporting contact tracing in other ways through this Guidance for Schools Responding to LPHA Capacity Needs Related to Contact Tracing.
  3. 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. Let them know that cases in the school community impact your ability to deliver a stable educational program and impact our ability to keep our classrooms open. 
  4. 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 ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us. Thank you!

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