Children, schools and COVID-19: OHA and ODE answer your questions

On Wednesday, the Oregon Health Authority Senior Health Advisor Dr. Tom Jeanne and the Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill answered questions about COVID-19 in children and reminded us of the protections being taken in Oregon schools to ensure that students can safely continue in-person instruction.

As Dr. Jeanne noted, “The Delta variant is an ongoing threat, and we want to make sure Oregon’s children are protected as much as possible.” Oregon’s limited pediatric hospital capacity makes it even more important to ensure students have a safe school year.

In-person school is possible and important

As Director Gill noted, a safe in-person school year is possible “because schools are a controlled setting. They are a place where we are all used to following rules to help everyone get along and to help keep everyone safe together. No one protection measure is enough when many people are together in a space for long periods of time, as happens in schools.”

In-school learning is also important. “Nearly all our children learn better when taught in-person by a talented teacher who can build a caring bond that leads to each child growing and learning beyond our expectations,” said Director Gill. “Our schools are places of learning and care. And, our kids need access again.”

We can all help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools

The key to making this happen is taking every step possible to avoid spreading COVID-19 in schools. We are all concerned about having to keep children home from school due to quarantine. But as Director Gill noted, we can take steps to reduce quarantines by reducing the risk of spread:

  • Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Vaccinated students only have to quarantine if they show symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Wear masks. When people wear masks, they are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 and need quarantine.
  • Follow the school’s rules about physical distancing and seating. These rules help reduce exposure and help schools better track who may need to quarantine.

Oregon’s multi-layered approach to safe, reliable in-person learning

This is all part of Oregon’s multi-layered approach to ensure in-person learning continues this school year:

  • Vaccination
  • Face coverings
  • Physical distancing
  • Cohorting
  • Improving airflow and circulation with outside air
  • Hand washing
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Symptom screening
  • Regular COVID-19 testing

“These are not all convenient,” Director Gill admitted. “They are a real challenge, but the pay-off is stability, allowing our kids to be in school with their friends – learning, growing, and playing. That is our goal, every day for all our students.”

Oregon’s multi-layered approach to safe, reliable in-person learning

Watch the video for answers to your questions about children, schools and COVID-19:

10:00 – How are schools safe and not COVID super-spreaders everyday?

11:49 – Why aren’t schools remote until children under 12 can get vaccinated?

14:26 – When and where are school outbreaks reported?

16:28 – Why isn’t Oregon offering a test to stay program?

18:04 – Please tell us about the new guidelines that went into place on Sept. 14, which changed the rules of who has to be notified and quarantined in cases of school outbreaks.

19:50 – Why aren’t kids and teachers being tested?

21:55 – What is the vaccine rollout plan for kids age 5-11 when it is approved?

23:20 – Can you tell us more about the take-home COVID-19 tests you are going to start offering? Are they nasal tests or saliva tests? What is the turnaround time in terms of getting the test results and when should the students get tested?

24:03 – What direction are you giving to school districts in regards to providing at-home education to students in quarantine?

27:24 – If the under-12 age group is eating together indoors for lunch, how is it safe?

28:39 – What is being done about the delay in notifying parents about exposure?

29:58 – Why is testing only being provided to K-12 schools and not to preschools?