PORTLAND, Ore — The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) on Friday released updated metrics that will allow more Oregon students to return to in-person learning.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the changes at a Friday news conference. Brown, along with state health and education officials, argued the updates are necessary because the benefits students gain from in-person education in schools outweigh the risks of the coronavirus.
“COVID is here to stay. It’s here to stay for the foreseeable future,” Brown said. “What’s also clear is we must prioritize getting our students into the classroom for in-person instruction.”
The ODE and OHA first issued school metrics in August. Friday’s updated metrics account for data from school districts across the country and align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brown said the new metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, and they bring Oregon in sync with the standards of other states like California.
“These metrics still place a very high bar for case counts to open schools,” Brown said.
The new metrics take effect immediately and potentially allow close to 130,000 Oregon students to return to some form of in-person learning.
“The vast majority of our students will not be able to return to class,” Brown said.
According to the ODE, updates to the statewide metrics include:
- A clear set of reachable targets for communities to strive for, with a North Star of returning Oregon students to in-person instruction.
- Acknowledgement that Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance’s strong public health protocols in structured settings like schools, can greatly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
- Additional time for schools to transition between in-person and distance learning models.
- Increased access to in-person instruction at the elementary level.
- A two Week “Look Back” at the Metrics Data rather than one week at a time over a three-week period.
- Removes State Positivity Rate in favor of county positivity rates.
“As a state we need to recognize the importance of getting our kids back to school,” said ODE Director Colt Gill. “Schools are a center of services to students and families, offering nutritious meals, access to social-emotional and mental health supports, as well as physical health services.”
The new metrics allow school districts, in consultation with local public health, to make final decisions about when schools can move to in-person instruction.
Under the updated metrics, the following counties are eligible for K-12 students to return to at least some in-person learning:
- Hood River
The following counties are eligible for elementary school students to return to at least some in-person learning:
The following counties are not yet eligible for in-person learning:
The new metrics were announced as COVID-19 surges in Oregon and across the country.
Oregon will announce a new record for COVID-19 cases in a single day with 600 on Friday, Brown said, one day after the state set a new record for daily cases on Thursday with 575.
Last week, more Oregonians tested positive for COVID-19 than any other week during the pandemic so far, according to the OHA’s weekly report on the virus.
During the week of Oct. 19-25, Oregon averaged 377 new cases per day.
The OHA said the increase in cases reflects continued widespread transmission resulting in small clusters and outbreaks statewide.
"Doctors tell me that zero-risk is not the way forward. It can’t be," said Brown.
"We are making adjustments to the metrics based on our best judgements of science."