Changes to masking requirements for school based health centers and school health care settings

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Oregon Department of Education - Oregon achieves - together

To: Superintendents, Principals, K-12 Public Information Officers, Private School Leaders, Charter School Leaders, School Nurses, Communicable Disease Preparedness Liaisons
From: Kati Moseley; Administrator, Oregon Department of Education
Date: March 6, 2023
RE: Changes to masking requirements for school based health centers and school health care settings

Dear School and District Leaders,

It has been some time since I have been in touch with you regarding changes to COVID-19 rules, protocols or expectations. This is a positive development as it suggests that your efforts to plan for and respond to respiratory illness in your school communities have been successful. Schools have developed meaningful capacity to manage respiratory viruses including COVID-19 and the challenges these viruses bring to operations. Thank you for all you have done to keep children in school and preserve the capacity of our health care system for those who need care.

On March 3, the Oregon Health Authority announced that as of April 3, it will rescind provisions in Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 333-019-1011 that require workers in health care settings to wear masks. This means that those working at or visiting school-based health centers, and school nurses or staff members providing services under direction of a school nurse, will no longer be required by the state to wear a mask when providing services in a school health care setting. Masks remain an effective way to reduce transmission of respiratory viruses. CDC, OHA and ODE continue to recommend that individuals wear a mask when communities are in high transmission, if they are sick, and if they have had contact with someone with COVID-19. People at higher risk for severe disease, or those who live with someone at higher risk, should still consider wearing masks in any setting to better protect themselves and those most vulnerable around them.

It is important to keep in mind that local government, districts, or school administrators may adopt additional masking requirements. There is no prohibition on a local government, district or school administrator adopting a masking policy or procedure. In addition, masking may be required pursuant to OR-OSHA’s rule on exceptional risk. Please refer to OAR 437-001-0744 for those situations covered by the rule.

It is our responsibility to ensure the school environment is safe and welcoming to every student and staff member. This includes honoring individual decisions around risk, including the wearing, or not wearing, of a mask. The ODE-OHA co-developed toolkit Centering Safety and Belonging as Schools Transition to Local Mask Policy, remains a useful resource for you as you continue to create safe, supportive, welcoming schools, and to help prevent bullying and harassment linked to student and family choice to wear or not wear a mask at school.

The month-long lead-up to the ending of Oregon’s health care mask requirement gives the health care system, local public health authorities and other partners time to prepare for the change. It also gives members of the public, particularly populations at increased risk of severe disease - communities of color, tribal communities, rural communities, lower-income communities, those with underlying medical conditions, seniors, and parents of vulnerable infants - a chance to plan health care visits and protective measures.

In order to protect themselves and their families and communities, people are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with vaccinations and boosters.

Please contact with any questions.