5 Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare Your Community for Winter

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To:           Superintendents and Principals, ESD Reopening Liaisons, Charter
                School Leaders, Private School Leaders, School Nurses, Public
                Information Officers, Business Managers
From:      Colt Gill, Director, Oregon Department of Education
Date:       November 1, 2021
Re:          5 Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare Your Community for Winter

Dear Education Community,

Our goal across Oregon is to keep our students learning in-person, all year long. This means doing everything we can to practice and layer health and safety protocols. 

The recent decline in Delta variant COVID-19 cases has leveled off and cases now appear to be increasing. While hospital beds occupied by people with COVID-19 have decreased significantly from their peak during this surge, they are still near levels from the fall/winter (2020-2021) surge and are straining health care staff capacity. In addition, people who put off getting care during the pandemic are now more severely ill, and require hospitalization to recover, further straining hospital capacity. 

Right now, every layer matters. Every layer helps keep students in class. 

We know that every layer matters: vaccines for those eligible, physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, face coverings inside and also outside when in crowds, ventilation, air filtration, staying home when sick and all the other measures we’ve learned and practiced over the last 19 months.

When we talk about layering health and safety protocols -- we’re talking about using multiple distinct strategies -- and the best tools we have, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.

Today, ODE issued a school health advisory that reinforces how lower transmission of COVID-19 happens when we layer health and safety protocols. The health advisory remains in effect until December 31, 2021.

At this time, in Oregon: 

  • Community transmission remains very high in every county; no community is currently spared the devastating effects of COVID-19. 
  • Masking and other mitigation efforts in K-12 schools have allowed Oregon’s children to successfully return to full-time instruction this school year despite very high community transmission. 
  • Currently, approximately 20% of cases in Oregon are pediatric cases, and children have become a significant driver of the current surge. 
  • Children can and do develop severe disease, thankfully at a much lower rate than adults. But, more than 25% of all multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) cases reported to date in Oregon were reported during the month of October.  

As we transition to colder weather, I’m asking for your help as school leaders.

Will you consider taking these 5 steps to join in the effort to keep our students and staff safe in our schools? 

  1. Review your health and safety protocols as a school team and ask what’s working well, and where you can improve.
  2. Retrain teachers and school staff. 
  3. Rely on clear protocols to help everyone in school know and follow the protocols.
  4. Re-engage your school community in a conversation about the winter months and keeping our students safe. And share the school health advisory broadly, it has ideas for community members as well as the school. 
  5. Reiterate your priorities and the importance of layering in every communication from email to social media.

Use and adapt these presentation slides to get started! These slides and other helpful tools for communicating can be found on ODE’s Communications Tools webpage

We are in this together. If you have any questions, please reach out to ODECOVID19@state.or.us. Thank you!