What does reopening Oregon really mean?

Note: On July 27, 2021, in response to a large jump in cases and hospitalizations and new national guidance calling for masking measures to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Oregon Health Authority recommended universal mask use in public indoor settings throughout the state to protect Oregonians from COVID-19. You can read OHA’s official press release here.

On June 30, 2021, Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 21-15 went into effect, which eliminated the following Executive Orders:

  1. Executive Order 20-66 (County Risk Level framework)
  2. Executive Order 20-22 (Non-urgent Healthcare Procedures)
  3. Executive Order 21-06 (K-12 Schools)
  4. Executive Order 20-28 (Higher Education)
  5. Executive Order 20-19 (Childcare Facilities)

But what does all this even mean and how does it affect everyday life in Oregon?

Most COVID-19 health and safety restrictions are gone, but not all of them

Executive Order 21-15 eliminated Oregon’s County Risk Level framework, which had been in place since late last year to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout Oregon.

That framework dictated how people could socialize indoors and outdoors, what sort of rules were in place for public establishments throughout the state and the types of activities people could participate in based on the rate of COVID-19 transmission in a given county.

Now, that guidance has been eliminated. That means there are no longer any capacity limits, enforced closing times or physical distancing requirements for businesses, venues or faith organizations.

Statewide mask mandates are no longer in place either. However, some establishments can still choose to enforce mask wearing policies. Furthermore, masks are still required in health care settings (encompassing medical, dental, behavioral and emotional health care), in airports and on airplanes, and on public transportation.

Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are strongly advised to continue practicing masking, physical distancing and outdoor gathering. You can find a table summary of those recommendations below.

For an overview on how masking recommendations have changed throughout the state, click here.

Certain aspects of Executive Order focused on recovery

While a large portion of Executive Order 21-15 is focused on cancelling pandemic-related restrictions, it also created terms for ongoing recovery efforts that will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2021.

As Governor Kate Brown detailed in the order, there is still an urgent need for COVID-19 support throughout the state.

“The lasting impacts of the hardships Oregonians have borne during the pandemic will be with us for longer still,” said Governor Brown. “While a return to pre-pandemic employment is closer at hand for several major industries that were less impacted by the COVID-19 recession, other sectors still have a long way to go, including leisure and hospitality, as well as local government.”

As such, Governor Brown extended Executive Order 20-03 — an order that originally went into effect March 8, 2020 — to support recovery efforts through the end of 2021. That means that emergency authorities will be leveraged to improve vaccination efforts, ensure that health systems have the staffing and resources needed to respond to any potential future COVID-19 outbreaks and support such things as emergency child care operations and unemployment processing claims.

The extension of Executive Order 20-03 will also allow Oregon residents to continue receiving FEMA funding, SNAP benefits and other enhanced federal resources.

At the state level, the extension of the order allows for Oregon to receive help from other states, as stipulated through “interstate emergency compacts.” Such interstate compacts were used early in the pandemic to procure protective personal equipment from California.

For more information, read the full Executive Order here.

What about schools?

Executive Order 21-06 — an order that focused on guidelines for K-12 education — was also recently eliminated when Oregon reopened.

However, as has been the case for much of the pandemic, Oregon’s schools have followed the guidelines set through the Ready Schools, Safe Learners (RSSL) framework. On June 30, 2021 a new version of that framework went into effect.

Most of the health and safety measures contained in the framework are now advisory, rather than mandatory. Furthermore, the new framework allows for schools to make decisions about COVID-19 protocols at the local level.

“In general decisions of school health and safety reside with school and district officials,” states the RSSL framework. “Additionally, the authority of an educational governing body or school leader to close a school facility may vary depending on what governance structure is in place and the type of school.”

The framework’s main focus is to provide recommendations that allow for full-time, in-person instruction, honor the unique situation each Oregon community faces and support schools in health and safety planning.

As such, OHA and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) strongly advise:

  • Face coverings for all students in grades kindergarten and up
  • Physical distancing in all activities and instruction, maintaining at least three feet between students
  • Cohorting students
  • Ensuring effective ventilation
  • Creating protocols to ensure access to soap, water and hand sanitizer
  • Implementing COVID-19 testing
  • Developing plans for communicating health and safety protocols
  • Writing communicable disease management plans
  • Isolation and quarantine protocols

For more information on the advisory framework, click here. For any other questions you might have, you can contact the Oregon Department of Education.

COVID-19 responses shifting to local level

In a June 4 press conference, OHA Director Patrick Allen noted that it will be the responsibility of county commissioners and local public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 moving forward. While OHA will continue to collect and report data, it will be up to local health officials to conduct case investigations, contact tracing, vaccination efforts and safety interventions.

“For the past 16 months, we’ve needed an ‘all together’ pandemic response to confront a new and deadly threat,” said Director Allen. “But now, with infections down statewide and vaccinations up, we can shift from a statewide posture to a footing that looks different in each community, depending on their local risks.”

Despite the shift, OHA will continue to help local health officials as they coordinate necessary responses in their respective communities.

Learn more

On Wednesday, July 14, OHA State Health Officer and Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger and Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Woods answered questions on reopening in a Facebook Live Q&A. You can watch that segment below.