Today, Governor Kate Brown, Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) leadership urged Oregon families to take five important steps to make the 2021-2022 school year a safe one.
- Make a plan to vaccinate all eligible household members.
- Wear a face covering in public and in carpools.
- Limit gatherings with other households.
- Move any social activities outside.
- Make a plan in case your child needs to miss school.
Governor Brown encouraged all Oregonians to continue using “the two most powerful tools that we have at this point in the pandemic: vaccines and masks.” As Dr. Dana Brener of OHSU stated, “Every mask, every vaccine and every attempt to limit gatherings is important” to stop the spread of COVID-19 and support in-person learning this school year.
They also shared information about new approaches ODE and OHA will take to equip families with the information they need to protect against the spread of COVID-19 and support the health and safety of Oregon’s children.
Statewide K-12 COVID-19 testing programs
One of the most important tools we have in our fight to contain the virus is COVID-19 testing. Regular and reliable screening and testing of students and staff can identify COVID-19 infections more quickly and help to slow transmission in K-12 settings. These include:
- Diagnostic testing for students or staff who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the virus while at school. This free testing can help diagnose infection early and shorten quarantine periods.
- Weekly screening testing for unvaccinated K-12 staff. These tests are self-collected at home and are processed through a regional laboratory.
- Weekly screening testing of unvaccinated students through an opt- in program.
OHA encourages every school to participate in these important testing programs. Schools must register for the 2021-2022 school year even if they participated last year.
Parents can also help by encouraging their children’s schools to enroll, and talking to their children about what to expect during a COVID-19 test.
School Health Advisories to begin this September
OHA and ODE will begin issuing School Health Advisories to increase awareness of the steps that individuals, families, schools, and communities can take to help ensure all our children can safely continue in-person learning this school year.
These advisories will change based on what we know about current COVID-19 conditions, both regionally and statewide, and how to best reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Read OHA and ODE’s first School Health Advisory (effective Sept. 7, 2021 through Oct. 1, 2021).
Care & Connection Program supports student mental health and resiliency
To process the last 18 months, students need to know their schools welcome them and care about them. ODE’s Care & Connection Program offers K-12 students opportunities to:
- Rebuild relationships with their friends, peers, teachers and school counselors.
- Learn how their schools believe in them and that they and their feelings matter.
As part of this program, all Oregon schools have been asked to start the year with a Care and Connection Week. ODE has also provided schools activities to support caring and connecting for K-12 students throughout the school year.
You can learn more about schools are doing and what families can do at home to support care and connection, including how to talk to your children about COVID-19.
Get vaccinated to protect yourself and everyone you care about
Daily cases and hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 have been at or near pandemic highs over the past several weeks. As Dr. Dean Sidelinger noted in today’s press conference, “This is a crisis that is largely being driven by people who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.”
All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. If you are 12 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon web page to schedule your vaccine appointment today.
You can watch a recording of today’s press conference below.