Gov. Brown, state officials outline new COVID-19 metrics for schools KDRV News Release

Governor Brown and officials from Oregon’s education and health agencies held a press conference to discuss the new coronavirus metrics for schools throughout the state. Posted: Jul 28, 2020 1:45 PM Updated: Jul 28, 2020 2:25 PM Posted By: Jamie Parfitt

PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown and officials from Oregon’s education and health agencies held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the new coronavirus metrics for schools throughout the state — guidelines that will determine whether individual districts can move forward with in-person classes this fall.

Brown heralded the metrics in a statement on Monday, saying that both county and statewide COVID-19 data would determine “when it is safe for in-person instruction to resume,” or when schools will have go online-only.

“The plan each public district adopts for the coming school year is, and remains, a local decision,” Brown said in reference to the first round of state guidance provided to districts in June. “And yet, in the time since then, the virus has continued to spread — and we must follow clear public health metrics to know when and where it is safe for school to convene inside school buildings.”

Among the metrics announced on Tuesday is a requirement for the rate of positive COVID-19 tests to remain below 5 percent at both the state and county level. The state dipped below that level just last week following three weeks in a row above 5 percent, according to the weekly testing report from the Oregon Health Authority.

“Today in Oregon, we are not where we need to be to safely reopen schools,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “Case rates over the last week were about 50 per 100,000 statewide . . . our test positivity is approaching 5 percent. Our current case rates are higher than they need to be, and are higher than they were in other countries when schools reopened. But we can suppress COVID-19 and return to levels where we can reopen schools — we did in before, we’ll do it again.”

Under the metrics, however, there will be several different levels of allowed in-person learning depending on the rate of positive cases and overall test positivity in an area — including ones that would see younger children and rural students stay in school when other students are switching to online-only.

Multiple officials underlined the importance of having children in classes for their well-being, but said that the safety of adults in the community is also a majaor concern. Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill called in-person learning his agency’s “highest priority,” depending on the promise of a safe return to school for both students and educators.

“Opening schools is not a one-way journey,” Gill said, stressing that the whole community needs to support educational advancement with health behaviors such as safe distancing, washing hands, and wearing face coverings.

‘Ready Schools, Safe Learners’ COVID-19 metrics at-a-glance

In-Person Instruction or Hybrid Instruction Model: All Grade Levels and School Districts

In order to resume in-person instruction in any form, including hybrid instruction models when students are only sometimes in the classroom, the following conditions must be met:

  • County Metrics (Must be Met Three Weeks in a Row)
    • 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people over 7 days
    • Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days
  • Statewide Metrics (Must be Met Three Weeks in a Row)
    • Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days

In-Person Instruction or Hybrid Instruction Model: K-3 Students and Remote and Rural School Districts

Under some conditions, in-person instruction can resume only for K-3 students and remote and rural school districts with fewer than 100 students. Younger students get the virus at lower rates, get less sick, and spread the virus less than older students and adults. Younger students also need more in-person instruction to build the literacy and math skills critical for lifelong learning. Schools in remote and rural communities are less likely to contribute to the community spread of COVID-19 cases that cannot be traced and contained.

The following conditions must be met for in-person instruction for K-3 students or for remote and rural students:

  • Fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 over 7 days
  • Test positivity of 5% or less over 7 days
  • COVID-19 is not actively spreading in the school community
  • School districts are in compliance with sections 1-3 of Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance

Transition Planning for Comprehensive Distance Learning

For school districts where in-person instruction is occurring during the school year, planning for a switch to comprehensive distance learning should take place, including training for staff and notification of the community, if one or both conditions are met:

  • 20 or greater cases per 100,000 over 7 days
  • Test positivity of 7.5% or greater over 7 days

Comprehensive Distance Learning

All school districts must implement comprehensive distance learning if the following conditions are met:

  • 30 or more cases per 100,000 over 7 days
  • Test positivity of 10% or greater over 7 days