Revisions to Face Covering Rules & New Test to Stay Protocol in Oregon K-12 Schools

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To:        Oregon School and District Leaders
From:   Kati Moseley, Ready Schools, Safe Learners Manager
Date:    November 23, 2021
Re:       Revisions to Face Covering Rules & New Test to Stay Protocol in Oregon
             K-12 Schools

Dear Colleagues,

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) have two substantive updates to share with schools; a change to the K12 face covering rule (OAR 333-019-1015) and OHA’s new test to stay protocol.

Lifting the Outdoor Face Covering Requirement 
This week, OHA anticipates adopting updated temporary rules OAR 333-019-1025 and OAR 333-019-1015 which will revise the statewide indoor/outdoor face covering rule and the K12 face covering rule. The revision to OAR 333-019-1025 will maintain a statewide requirement for mask use in indoor settings and removes the requirement for everyone age five (5) or older to wear a face covering outdoors where people from separate households gather. Revisions to OAR 333-019-1015 will remove the outdoor face covering requirement for K-12 settings. These changes will be in effect once the rule is filed by OHA.

What This Will Mean for Schools: 

  • Schools may continue to require students and staff to wear face coverings during outdoor activities. 
  • As school leaders, health and safety in school rests largely on the choices that you make. Thoughtful consideration of how students interact during recess and other outdoor activities will be important to ensuring that outdoor exposure quarantines don’t increase, should you choose to allow face coverings to come off for some or all outdoor activities. Use of face coverings when students are together for prolonged periods outdoors and are not maintaining physical distance can still prevent spread and reduce the impact of quarantines.  
  • We will update our Resiliency Framework in the coming days to reflect these changes. 

Similar to other COVID-19 mitigation protocols such as physical distancing, and airflow/ventilation, outdoor face covering is now a local decision under these new rules.

OHA reviews data regularly to determine the need for face coverings. As COVID-19 rates increase or decrease in Oregon, decisions to relax or tighten statewide face covering requirements may be made. 

Keeping Students Learning In-Person
Additionally OHA and ODE have developed a new test to stay protocol that will allow unvaccinated students and staff to participate in in-person learning as safely as possible while lessening the burden of quarantine on students, families and staff. We know the critical importance that attendance has on student success and the CDC considers test to stay a promising practice for minimizing quarantine and maximizing school days in school. We are happy to launch this new testing protocol for the benefit of our school communities.

OHA’s test to stay protocol is a new and critical tool in our work to keep Oregon’s students learning in person; however, the best tool remains vaccination. CDC and OHA recommend all children 5 years and older be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccinated students and staff are not subject to quarantine following exposures to COVID-19. Test to stay is an additional mitigation layer that will allow unvaccinated students and staff to maximize days spent in school learning, growing, and thriving. 

Highlights of the Test to Stay Protocol 
OHA’s test to stay protocol allows unvaccinated students and staff to continue to participate in in-person instruction in Oregon’s K-12 schools during their quarantine period. The risk of transmission is minimized in school settings because the required testing is combined with several layers of mitigation including universal masking, physical distancing, cohorting, and ventilation. 

  • Test to stay is available only for unvaccinated asymptomatic individuals who were exposed in indoor and outdoor school settings where universal masking is fully in place. Indoor and outdoor exposures are reviewed for proximity and duration of exposure. 
  • Test to stay requires unvaccinated individuals to be tested twice during the 7 days following exposure. First, as soon as the exposure has been identified, with a second test occurring between days 5-7 following the exposure.
  • Test to stay is a form of modified quarantine, which allows individuals to attend school during their 7-day quarantine period. However, individuals participating in test to stay are expected to maintain quarantine outside of classroom settings. 
  • Students and staff participating in test to stay may participate in school-related extracurricular activities during their 7-day quarantine period but must wear a face covering at all times during these activities.
  • The CDC considers test to stay a promising practice for minimizing quarantine and maximizing school days in school.

Note: Test to stay may not be used following extracurricular exposures because masking in these settings is optional and the risk of transmission within the cohort is greater. Similarly, test to stay may not be used following community or in-home exposures.

How Can Schools Participate? 
Test to stay builds on OHA’s diagnostic testing program for K-12 schools. Schools currently enrolled in the diagnostic testing program will be automatically enrolled in the test to stay protocol. Schools who want to register for the diagnostic program must register by completing the online registration and attestation form.

To participate in test to stay, schools will need to: 

  • Register for the OHA Diagnostic testing program.
  • Identify school testing administrator(s) and a school testing reporter to administer and report all tests. The school testing administrator(s) do not need to be a health care professional but must complete all required online training modules for the BinaxNOW point-of-care antigen test and carefully review all training regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
  • Obtain parental consent for testing testing students (this may already complete if you are registered for OHA’s diagnostic testing program).

The test to stay protocol is optional and is offered at no cost to participants. Unvaccinated students and staff have the option of following LPHA recommendation for length of quarantine if they do not consent to participate in test to stay.  

Tools & Support Available

Implementing the test to stay protocol is an exciting step in keeping all of our students learning in-person. As we see COVID-19 testing supply increase in our state, an at-home self administered testing protocol may become available. All OHA testing programs are free to schools offering a variety of benefits. Review this OHA Testing programs summary for an overview. 

What is Still Coming? 
ODE, in partnership with OHA, is working to develop resources to offer additional details for school and district leaders. These will include: 

  • Social media cards to support community understanding of the protocol.
  • Updates to the Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools to incorporate the test to stay protocol.
  • Revisions to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework.
  • Short explanatory video for use with staff, students, parents, families and school district leaders. 
  • A decision support tool related to quarantine length to help staff, students, families and parents understand test to stay and non-school based exposure quarantines. 
  • Translated documents for families to be posted on ODE’s Communications Toolkit page.

If you have any questions about this update, please contact the ODE COVID-19 inbox at Thank you!