Oregon's ongoing response to COVID-19: Omicron modeling for Oregon and the importance of vaccinating and boosting now

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To: Superintendents, Private School Leaders, Charter School Leaders, Principals, School Nurses, Reopening Advisors, Public Information Officers, and Education Partners
From: Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education 
Date: December 17, 2021 
RE: Oregon's ongoing response to COVID-19: Omicron modeling for Oregon and the importance of vaccinating and boosting now


Dear Partners, 

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to keep students in school and learning safely through the global pandemic. As the Omicron variant travels through Oregon, Governor Brown and health officials held a press conference today reminding Oregonians to both get the COVID-19 booster shot and double down on the proven practices that limit Omicron’s reach. Current modeling from OHSU shows that Oregon will likely experience a significant COVID-19 surge, driven by the omicron variant, beginning in January and continuing through February. 

This omicron variant surge is likely to be much steeper than the delta variant surge we are experiencing. Hospitals will likely be impacted in even more significant ways than they were in the fall. 

What This Means For Schools Now And In 2022

Our North Star remains holding school in-person, for all students, every school day, all year long.  Keeping students in school is critical for the educational and social emotional health of our students. The omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant. To maintain in-person instruction we need to take every possible step to reduce spread so that our students and staff remain healthy and at school.

When school resumes in January, please take every possible action to double-down on layered mitigation efforts as you return from break. Plan to re-teach appropriate use of face coverings, reestablish physical distancing practice, incorporate frequent handwashing, recheck ventilation systems, and other layered health and safety measures. Work with health partners to set up vaccination clinics and encourage eligible students and adults to get their vaccinations and boosters. More information about vaccinations can be found at Get Vaccinated Oregon

Winter Break

There are no immediate steps you need to take. Continue to watch the progress of the omicron variant in Oregon, partner with public health on vaccination clinics and be ready to reinforce all layered health and safety protocols in January. I hope you enjoy some time off over the next few weeks to recharge and connect with family and friends. Please watch for updates in the new year as we track the potential omicron surge in January and February.

Please refer to the December Education Update for a set of resources on Supporting Students in Relation to School Breaks and Transitions With Care and Connection. My column includes a number of mental and social emotional wellbeing supports that may help as students return in January. 

Finally, know that with the omicron variant on the rise in Oregon over the next two-weeks, the likelihood is high that individuals with COVID-19 will enter your schools in January. Every exposure threatens and destabilizes in-person learning. ODE has created the Every Layer Matters toolkit to support your efforts to keep students and staff in school every day. 

Helpful Resources:

Thank you for doing your part to ensure our children have consistent access to in-person learning. If you have any questions about this update, please contact the ODE COVID-19 inbox at ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us. Thank you!