SALEM, Oregon — Oregon health and education officials are set to further relax some COVID-19 policies in K-12 schools as the Omicron variant increasingly causes infections and widespread quarantines among students and staff.
The new guideline released Friday changes the definition of an “exposure” to someone who is positive for COVID-19. Instead of an exposure referring to close contact of any kind, it now only applies to: unmasked contacts at schools.
“This means Oregon will no longer consider masked contact in K-12 environments (including on school buses) an exposure, regardless of distance,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education. “Physical distance should still be practiced as much as possible.”
According to ODE, the new recommendations aim to reduce the contact tracing burden for drivers and health professionals.
Now the focus will be on exposed exposures, especially during meals or extracurricular activities such as banding, welding or exercising.
“The Oregon Department of Education strongly recommends that all schools immediately implement stable lunch cohorts (e.g., table groups, packed lunches, etc.) where this is not yet the practice,” the agency said. “If a case occurs within a lunch cohort, the entire lunch cohort group should be considered exposed. Similarly, when a case occurs in an indoor unmasked extracurricular cohort, the whole cohort can be considered exposed.”
The Oregon Health Authority has also decided that schools will no longer be required to report negative antigen test results to the agency, only positive cases.
“During this period of very high COVID-19 transmission in our communities, cases will still be identified in our school communities and exposures will occur,” ODE continued. “Exposed fully vaccinated children and adults who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination series and boosters will not be quarantined and allowed to continue attending school.”
People exposed to COVID-19 at school will continue to be eligible for a test to stay and can continue to attend school during their adjusted quarantine period, officials said.
According to OHA, the directive is expected to come into effect on Friday.