OHA lifts Oregon mask requirements for indoor public spaces and schools on March 19

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To: Superintendents and Principals, Charter School Leaders, Private School Leaders, School Nurses, Public Information Officers, Reopening Advisors
From: Colt Gill, Director, Oregon Department of Education
Date: February 24, 2022
RE: OHA lifts Oregon mask requirements for indoor public spaces and schools on March 19



The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has announced lifting mask requirements for indoor public spaces and Oregon’s schools on March 19.

Earlier this month, OHA announced that the K-12 mask rule would be lifted on March 31.

Current modeling from Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) indicates that hospitalizations will fall below 400 or fewer Oregonians per day by March 19, a level the state experienced before the arrival of the Omicron variant in Oregon.

Over the past several days, Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and OHA have been engaging with local school and public health officials. These officials expressed a strong need to keep alignment between the dates for lifting the statewide face covering expectations in the K-12 settings with the lifting of the general indoor public spaces masking requirement. In addition, school and district leaders confirmed they can thoughtfully prepare for this transition by March 19 and take necessary actions to ensure students can safely remain in classrooms.

It is important to continue implementation of indoor face coverings in schools until March 19 to help Oregon fully overcome its largest COVID-19 surge brought on by the Omicron variant. OAR 333-019-1015 will remain in effect until March 19.

RSSL Resiliency Framework Updates

Based on the feedback from local leaders and communities, OHA and ODE are also partnering to develop practical updates to safety protocols for quarantine, contact tracing, and testing that meet the current conditions of the pandemic. These guidelines will continue to support our North Star goal of providing in-person learning for every student, all day, every school day and will focus on specific supports for students, staff, and families that may be at more risk from COVID-19 than others in the school population. Once decisions are finalized, updates to the RSSL Resiliency Framework, and other resources will be shared early next week.

Once these updates are finalized, ODE will hold meetings with public, public charter, and private school leaders to review the changes to prepare for school operations through the spring.

Face Covering Recommendations

Even after statewide face covering requirements are lifted, state officials strongly recommend that students and staff in high-risk groups continue to wear masks in indoor public settings and continue to strongly advise the implementation of universal masking in indoor K12 settings. K12 settings are congregate settings where children are required to attend. They bring together vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, as well as individuals who are at higher risk for sever COVID-19 illness.

High risk groups include people who are unvaccinated; immunocompromised; at high risk of COVID-19 hospitalization; 65 and older or with underlying health conditions; and those living with people who have underlying health conditions.

Moving Forward

We have come to this turning point in the pandemic for Oregon. Together, Oregonians have made smart choices, like wearing masks and getting booster shots. These efforts helped Oregon fare better than almost every state in the nation throughout the pandemic with some of the lowest case rates (3rd lowest) and lowest death rates (7th lowest) in the country.

School will feel a little different this spring in many schools across the state, perhaps a little closer to our memory of “normal”. That can be good for students and staff alike, we will be in a different stage of the pandemic. If you choose to move away from universal face coverings, I urge you to maintain diligence in your attention to all the other health and safety protocols and watch for signs of outbreak in your local community. Look to your communicable disease plan and lean into all you have learned about operating in a pandemic these last two years. At the state level, we will continue to monitor the path of the pandemic in Oregon and adjust our guidance to prioritize safe, in-person learning.

And as we move into this new stage, I want to say thank you to all of our educators - without the partnership and tremendous dedication of our teachers, classroom support staff, school counselors and mental health professionals, bus drivers, custodians, nutrition services staff, office staff, specialists, school and district administrators, and school nurses this year of in-person learning could not have happened. As we move through this new stage of the pandemic, I know we will always look back at this time in our history and see our educators as the heroes that they have been and continue to be for our children and families.