OHA Message - Health experts ask people to take action to lower risk for children as RSV, flu cases push hospitals to brink 

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

OHA Message - Health experts ask people to take action to lower risk for children as RSV, flu cases push hospitals to brink 

To: Superintendents and Principals, Charter School Leaders, Private School Leaders, School Nurses, K-12 Public Information Officers, Communicable Disease Preparedness Liaisons and Education Partners 

From: Colt Gill, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction   

Date: November 23, 2022 

RE: OHA Message - Health experts ask people to take action to lower risk for children as RSV, flu cases push hospitals to brink 

I’m writing tonight to share my thanks for your steadfast efforts to keep our schools operating in-person during a time of rapid spread of respiratory illnesses and to share a message that went out from the Oregon Health Authority this afternoon. This message does not require action on your part over this holiday weekend.  

Today, Oregon health officials issued a call to action to protect kids ahead of a post-holiday surge in serious respiratory illnesses that will worsen pediatric ICU bed shortages. This heightened recommendation is in response to the rapid spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus that have resulted in a dramatic surge of pediatric hospitalizations across Oregon.  

In response to Oregon’s acute shortage of pediatric intensive care beds, state health officials recommend that people: 

  • Stay home when sick. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, or with a tissue that you immediately throw away after use. 
  • Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, including doorknobs, faucets, chairs, countertops and tables. 
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing into a tissue. 
  • Get a flu shot and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including new bivalent boosters. There is no vaccine for RSV. 
  • Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces. 

State health officials are working with hospitals to bring additional nurses into Oregon from out of state. OHA officials also are pursuing health care volunteers through Serv-OR, the state’s emergency volunteer registry. In addition, OHA is providing hospitals with recent legislatively appropriated funds to aid staffing. 


Recommended Actions for Schools 

Review and implement your school and district level COVID-19 and communicable disease plans. Take every possible action to double-down on layered mitigation measures beginning now, and continuing through the holiday break. This is our opportunity to support two critical goals (1) protect young children and elders in our communities by reducing the spread of illness in schools that can be carried home to others and (2) take steps to keep students and staff healthy so we can maintain in-person instruction across the state.  

Here are recommendations, not requirements or mandates, for action you can take to support vulnerable people and maintain in-person instruction: 

  • Support the use of masks in crowded indoor spaces. Re-teach students and staff correct use of face coverings.  
  • Reestablish other layered health and safety measures following your School-Level COVID-19 Management Plan. 
  • Some schools in Oregon already closed this week due to high illness-related absenteeism. Closely monitor unusual absenteeism or illness within a cohort and follow the protocol to notify your local public health authority (LPHA) about unusual respiratory disease activity if the following thresholds are met: 
    • At the school level: ≥ 30% absenteeism, with at least 10 students/staff absent.  
    • At the cohort level: ≥ 20% absenteeism, with at least 3 students/staff absent. 
  • Work with health partners to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics and encourage eligible students and staff to get their vaccinations and boosters. More information about vaccinations can be found at Get Vaccinated Oregon. 

In addition, schools are trusted messengers to their school communities.  

  • Communicate with families the scope of the challenge facing pediatric hospital care in Oregon. Share today’s message from the Oregon Health Authority.  
  • Encourage families to keep children home when they have signs of illness. While school age children and school staff may not have the same risk of severe illness or hospitalization, respiratory disease spreads easily in school settings and students and staff can take the illness home to younger siblings and older family members who are at risk.  

As a reminder, Schools are required to exclude sick individuals from school per OAR 333-019-0010 (3) & (4). ODE and OHA have created a Symptom-Based Exclusion Chart to support schools in this rule implementation. 

If you have any questions about this update, please contact us: ODECOVID19@ode.oregon.gov 

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to ensure the health of students and families in Oregon.