Impact of New Statewide Outdoor Masking Requirement on Schools

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To:      Oregon Superintendents and Principals, Charter School Leaders, Private
            School Leaders, Reopening Advisors, School Nurses, Business Managers and
            Public Information Officers
From:  Kati Moseley, ODE Ready Schools, Safe Learners Manager
Date:   August 24, 2021
Re:      Impact of New Statewide Outdoor Masking Requirement on Schools


Dear Oregon School and District Leaders:

Thank you for your continued partnership as we strive to return students to reliable full-time, in-person instruction this year and keep our students, staff and their families safe and healthy. We are emailing today to share updates on Oregon’s response to the spread and consequences of the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

As part of that response, today Governor Brown announced a statewide outdoor mask requirement. Effective Friday, August 27, masks will be required in most public outdoor settings, including large outdoor events, where physical distancing is not possible, and regardless of vaccination status. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) also strongly recommends masking for outdoor gatherings at private residences when individuals from different households do not consistently maintain physical distance.

“The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic. Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high,” said Governor Brown. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

“It is much easier for people with the Delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” said Oregon Health Authority State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “This is because they have one thousand times more virus in their nose – which means that those around them are much more likely to get sick because this variant behaves so differently. We are starting to see instances where cases are clustering around events, like outdoor music festivals, that happen outdoors. Wearing masks in crowded settings – even outdoors – will help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

What is included in the outdoor mask requirement?
Under the Governor’s direction, the OHA rule will require masks for all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — in outdoor settings in which individuals from different households are unable to consistently maintain physical distance. The rule does not apply to fleeting encounters, such as two individuals walking by one another on a trail or in a park. While the rule does not apply to outdoor gatherings at private residences, masks are strongly recommended in those settings when individuals from different households do not consistently maintain physical distance.

The rule aligns with the exceptions outlined in the recent statewide indoor mask requirements, and does not apply to:

  • Children under 5 years old;
  • Individuals who are actively eating, drinking, or sleeping — as well as individuals living outdoors, such as persons experiencing houselessness;
  • Persons playing or practicing competitive sports, or engaged in an activity in which it is not feasible to wear a mask — such as swimming; or where a mask is a strangulation hazard;
  • Individuals delivering a speech or performing — such as with outdoor music or theater; and
  • In addition, entities subject to the ADA must continue to comply with that law.

The OHA rule will go into effect this Friday, August 27, however Oregonians are strongly encouraged to immediately start wearing masks outdoors, as outlined above.

How does the rule impact schools?
Mask requirements for day-to-day operations at K-12 schools are not governed by this rule, and will instead continue to fall under the school mask rule. Outside public events, spectator events, and gatherings of the general public on K-12 school grounds will be subject to the rule. Child care and youth programs will continue to follow existing OHA mask guidance.

ODE will work with OHA to further clarify what this new rule means in K-12 settings and share information with all of you. If you have questions it would be helpful to have them sent to

When can we expect updates on the statewide vaccination rule?
We expect to see the vaccination rule, FAQ, and form templates out this week. We will work with partners to hold meetings and answer questions as soon as the documents are posted. 

Thank you for your continued partnership as we all work to provide the best learning experience and environment for students and staff across the state. As always, please send your questions to