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Coronavirus

Oregon revises school reopening metrics; 1,000s more could return to class

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Despite rising, record daily COVID-19 case numbers, Gov. Kate Brown and other state officials unveiled new, more flexible and complex school reopening metrics Friday, with a goal of returning many more students to classrooms, noting that recent data shows they are not the "super-spreader" locations many fear.

However even under the new, relaxed metric requirements, about 80% of Oregon students will still not be eligible for in-person learning, state officials said.

“We want our kids at in-person instruction. We believe that most of our teachers want to be in person with their students,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education. “But everybody wants to do that with stability and with as little risk as possible.”

Previously in order for a school district to commence any form of in-person learning, the county must have 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days for three weeks. In addition, the countywide and state test positivity rate must be 5% or less for three consecutive weeks.

The original metrics have been described by some educators and parents as too restrictive.

“I do think that many community members thought that our targets were unreachable,” Gill said. “This new set of metrics is more in line where the CDC is. It is in line with where California is.”

Under the new metrics, counties that have 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people — over 14 straight days — will remain in distance learning. If the county has between 100 to 200 cases that places them in the transition column. Fifty to 100 cases places a county in a hybrid of on-site and distance learning. Counties with less than 50 cases are eligible for on-site learning.

“We are taking a very measured and methodical approach, so (some people) might say that these are relaxed metrics, but the vast majority of Oregon students will still be getting their education from a distance,” Gill said.

The state Department of Education estimates that potentially 130,000 students could at some point soon return to some in-person instruction. There are about 600,000 public school students in Oregon.

“Guided by data, these metrics offer an intentional and measured approach to returning to in-person instruction while recognizing the importance of meeting our kids’ academic needs—and allow for in-person instruction in places of our state where the risk of COVID-19 is lower,” Gill said.

Officials stressed that while some schools metrics are eligible to return to on-site instruction, it should be done incrementally and beginning with younger grades.

Brown said the impacts of having to shift to distance learning for months are many and growing on everyone, especially students and families.

She said the state indicated when setting the earlier requirements in mid-summer it would update them in October, based on the latest data about both the virus and its impacts on schools.

Seven months after the schools closed “we have learned a lot,” she said, including that “COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It’s also clear we must begin prioritizing getting students back into the classroom for in-person instruction,” but also to “minimize the risk to the greatest extent forward.”

The revisions outlined in the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners,” effort are based on the latest data and will bring Oregon’s guidelines in sync with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines as well as other states, like California, she said.

While Oregon still has one of the lowest test positivity rates in the country, the rising case count makes clear the goal of students back in class is inextricably tied to getting more community members to practice the safety guidelines involving masks, social distancing, hand-washing and the rest, the governor said – even with the holidays coming up and people wanting to gather with extended families and friends.

“I know we’re all sick of hearing it,” Brown said. “This is a time for each of us to take a deep breath and reflect on the steps we need to take to keep everyone safe."

“The bottom line is, we have to turn the tide and reduce the transmission increases we are seeing in most parts of the state to be able to safely reopen schools for in-person learning,” Brown said Ramping up testing, contact tracing and “supportive isolation” will be other keys, she said.

A new public education effort is planned in coming weeks about the informal social gatherings that are driving much of the case rise, Brown said, adding later that with proper safety protocols, “What is really clear is that schools are not ‘super-spreader’ events.”

Gill noted that about 50,000 Oregon students have been in the classroom already, and while “we have had cases in our schools, we also have had very little transmission in our schools.”

While again thanking Oregonians for the sacrifices by so many to keep infection rates lower than much of the country, Brown added, “I will continue to keep all tools available to me. They are still on the table … I don’t want to use them. I don’t want to have to close down restaurants and bars to in-person dining. I don’t want to have to close venues. If Oregonians make the right choices, we won’t have to.”


News release from Gov. Kate Brown's office:

Governor Kate Brown Announces Updates to School Metrics

Close to 130,000 students in districts eligible to return to classrooms with health and safety measures in place

 (Portland, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to Oregon’s school metrics that will allow more students to return to classroom instruction with health and safety measures in place. The updated metrics reflect CDC guidance and lessons learned from school districts across the country for best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“Our updated metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, are aligned with CDC recommendations, and bring Oregon in sync with the standards of other states like California,” said Governor Brown. “They also help us meet our priority of returning students to in-person instruction. These metrics still place a very high bar for low case counts to open schools, while at the same time providing more flexibility for our younger students.”

With COVID-19 set to be present in Oregon communities for the foreseeable future, Governor Brown reiterated her priority of returning students as safely as possible to Oregon schools: “Schools do so much more than teach and inspire our kids. They make sure students who are hungry receive warm and nutritious meals. They are places that provide care for students and identify those who are at risk or in need. They help provide support for students’ mental health and well-being.

“Schools are at the center of it all: the personnel, teachers, nurses, counselors, librarians, and education support professionals who, every day, build the personal, individual connections with students that are so crucial to their lifelong success.”

The Oregon Department of Education today also released an update to its Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, which outlines strict health and safety protocols to lower the risk of COVID-19 infection among students, parents, educators, and support staff.

Governor Brown’s full remarks are available here.


Oregon Department of Education news release:

ODE Releases Updated School Metrics And Safety Reminders

Metrics based on latest COVID-19 studies and data, align to CDC recommendations and help Oregon meet its priority to return students to in-person instruction. 

(Salem, Ore.) – As part of its planned guidance and metrics review process, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is releasing an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, including updated metrics for returning to in-person instruction. The metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data, align to CDC recommendations, are in line with standards in other states like California and help Oregon meet its priority to return students to in-person instruction.

Since Oregon’s metrics were originally issued in August, more data has become available from school districts across the country. ODE worked with the Oregon Health Authority to establish when students can return to the classroom while still mitigating the risk of COVID-19 spread.

A key lesson from the review of national school data is that Oregon school districts can help protect student and staff health and well-being during in-person instruction when community spread is sufficiently low and when school districts strictly adhere to the health and safety protocols now in place in Oregon.

“Today we are sharing scheduled updates to our metrics for schools. Guided by data, these metrics offer an intentional and measured approach to returning to in-person instruction while recognizing the importance of meeting our kids’ academic needs—and allow for in-person instruction in places of our state where the risk of COVID-19 is lower. They also set a North Star for the rest of the state to work toward,” said ODE Director Colt Gill. “We all know that in-person instruction provides our children and families with more than access to an equitable education. 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.” 

Key changes to the 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.

ODE and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) were among the very first states to create metrics for returning to in-person instruction in early August. At that time they were based in large part on successes seen in other countries, as school was not in session in the U.S. Later, exceptions were added to make a return to in-person instruction possible for more students, where there was lower risk of COVID-19 transmission.

When the metrics were first released, further review was announced, and now with additional studies and data on-hand the metrics are being revised to permit more in-person instruction while continuing to ensure that local conditions guide the process. As we learn more about the progression of COVID-19 in Oregon, the effectiveness of future vaccines and other mitigation efforts, and gain more information about the transmission of COVID-19 in structured settings like schools, ODE and OHA are committed to reviewing the metrics again in the coming weeks. 

The metrics updates take effect immediately and, based on this week’s data points, potentially allow close to 130,000 students to return to some in-person instruction. The guidance recommends that schools consider both equity and a methodical and cautious approach at the beginning that return a portion of the school population first and then add more students on-site over time. This will allow schools to build new safety routines, stabilize cohorts, and avoid sudden, disruptive transitions back to Comprehensive Distance Learning due to quarantine or isolation.

Safety Reminders

Schools are structured settings where we can reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission through key practices. Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance requires schools to comply with specific guidelines on:

  • Physical distancing
  • Face coverings
  • Hand hygiene
  • Cohorting
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Airflow and ventilation
  • And, effective screening, and responses to cases with quick access to testing and implementing isolation and quarantining 

School safety and other COVID-19 school related questions can be answered by emailing ODECOVID19@ode.state.or.us

If you believe a school is not in compliance with the safety requirements you can file a named or confidential complaint with Oregon OSHA at 1-833-604-0884 or online at: https://osha.oregon.gov/workers/Pages/index.aspx

“These metrics depend on the public doing its part to reduce Oregon’s case rates so that all of our children can return to in-person instruction,” Gill said. “Oregonians can reduce spread and send our kids back to school by wearing a face covering, maintaining distance, washing hands frequently, and avoiding group gatherings.”

Other changes to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance include:

  • Aligning with the most recent face covering requirements from Oregon Health Authority (Pages 32-35). 
  • Adding a link to the Tribal Consultation Toolkit (Page 77).
  • An exclusion guide (30).
  • Aligning to recent CDC changes to “close contact” definition (29).

Health and Education Leaders Weigh In

Video: Oregon Health Authority’s Dr. Tom Jeanne talks about revisions to school metrics.

Video: Salem-Keizer School District Superintendent Christy Perry talks about the importance of In-person instruction.


News release from the Oregon Education Association:

Statement from OEA President John Larson on Oregon’s Revised School Reopening Metrics

“Nobody wants to get students back to the classroom more than Oregon’s educators, but the process to bring those students back must be thoughtful and deliberative. The Governor’s decision to hastily implement new, relaxed, metrics will only serve to further disrupt education for students, families, and educators throughout Oregon – allowing districts to bring students back to the classroom before it is safe to do so and increasing the likelihood that our schools and communities will again be forced to lockdown in the future. Now is the time for Oregon leaders to focus on taking strong steps to reduce the ever-climbing community spread of COVID-19 in our state and put in place safeguards that will keep our most at-risk community members safe.”

Government-politics / News / Oregon-Northwest / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

The Associated Press

Comments

79 Comments

            1. It clearly wasn’t obvious because you approved it and let it post for half a day. You like to use the ‘offensive’ label quite often when you have no other logical reason other than ‘Barney doesn’t like it’.

                1. The problem of what constitutes “offensive language” here will forever be a mystery- so moving on to the story and what has happened here at the Governor’s office…. A complete reversal of standards and norms as the Dictator in Salem tries once again to change the dynamics of what she has done- for example…. “This new set of metrics is more in line where the CDC is. It is in line with where California is.”…….. FACT- Brown refused the CDC recommendations for months- she denied the science coming out of China from December to March that clearly showed “who” the “at risk” population is…. and it’s never been children !……….. Brown must resign her office immediately- she has failed to lead- instead- taking her cues from the likes of failed States like California…. THAT IS NOT LEADING! Kate Brown has been wrong about this virus from day one where she blamed the US President for Oregon’s lack of preparation- not enough money- not enough ventilators- all she did was stomp her feet and foam at the mouth blaming everyone in sight…. Even now she blames “large scale family gatherings” for the massive upticks in new cases- there is no data to back that up- the “un-traceable” cases are well above the 30% threshold for months now…. why hasn’t she fixed that ???…. Kate Brown has been a complete disaster for the State- she will go down in history as the absolute worst- if you lost your job- your house- your business- then jump on any class action law suit and demand restitution…. Where’s our local internet Z21 lawyer “Eddy” to clarify the possibilities on this- Probably still under his desk after the last bum whippin’ he got on this site.

  1. What you think is gonna be the meat of her conference Barney? Hopefully not news of a lockdown like we had in March starting Wednesday because of the record number of cases today.

  2. Oh look, it is what I said all along, that the metrics were way too restrictive. The lefties on here didn’t believe me because it came from the almighty democrat.

      1. And the Governor has been wrong since day one. When are you going to try thinking for yerself ? You do realize that Brown works for “we the people”…. and destroying the State economy- frighting folks like you into months of hiding- and finger pointing responsibility and accountability is not what she was put in office for…. She is nothing more than a third world dictator running rough shod over wimps like you who have enabled her to continue to trash the state- her hysterics will negatively affect Oregon for decades to come- and all you do is continue your petty name calling posturing on this site daily. You suck !

      1. Actually Tucker stated, Hunter was a beaten man and that he was not going to pile on. Nothing regarding not worth further discussion. With your talent for spinning a statement you should apply for work at our local CNN affiliate.

          1. You know every time another lib starts their go to rant blaming russia. I can’t help but think of the movie, The Russian are Coming, The Russians are Coming. My guess is your confusion comes from believing the movie was a documentary.

      2. Wrong Martha. Tucker did not say that a all. The ONLY people saying that are Biden supporters and the media. Biden will be going down for impeachment before the end of the year

      3. Martha…. since when did you start watching FOX News- Tucker Carlson- Hannity- the Greg Gutfeld show ? It’s clear you don’t- or you don’t pay attention- cause if you did- you wouldn’t be able to post the idiotic drivel you do…. kinda yer own catch 22 !

    1. Dude…the whole thing has been declared bogus. The entire “conspiracy” was started by a person that somehow, doesn’t exist. A WHOLE lot of hot air AGAIN.

      1. So Tony Bobulinski a navy veteran with top security clearance and long time democrat contributor. Who confirms meeting with the then acting VP joe, his son hunter and jim biden regarding the family’s pay for play business ventures, is bogus? You’re right nothing to see here.

              1. Once agin….YOUR kind deflects to a freakin’ typo….YOUR boy will be impeached. Did you see the texans run him and harris out of town in Texas City? Hundreds of them surrounded his bus and escorted it right on down the road

                1. I just spent a few weeks in Portland… Young-Old-Right-Left-stupid blondes and tall dark handsome men pretty much all agreed…. Portland is a krap hole- they all want out- city is full of wimps and posers- I heard absolutely nothing positive about Wheeler or Brown- and the negative opinions from all these folks couldn’t flow fast enough- I didn’t have to start a single rant- it all just spewed from their mouths… Maybe there is hope for Oregon after-all !

                2. When it happens with your level of frequency son, it’s not a typo. It’s poor education and not too many smarts. Did you see the Texans (capitalized by the way) soiling themselves in an attempt to illegally jettison over 100K votes cast? They’re going purple and then blue and they know it. It’s a matter of time.

    2. Try to keep up with your own fake news source, they have moved on hands in his pants Rudy’s fake Russian laptop was found out to be fake. Can’t wait until the FBI arrests him

    1. Why? How about people that work at Costco, Safeway, the hospital, anywhere really. Those people haven’t gone on strike. Teachers can quit if they are afraid of the china virus.

  3. I paid my property taxes and most of it went for schools, we should get a big refund as they are not using what we the taxpayers are paying for. Oh I forgot most is going to the union controlled teachers.

    1. My childrens teacher are working VERY hard. They are teaching live lessons, sending out paper packets and learning materials. We have had supplies dropped off to us at our homes. One of my kids teachers had us social distancing out side of the school this week picking up supplies and pumpkins too with everyone dressed up. This is hard for everyone. But our teachers rock and are doing their best to make sure our kids are learning and feel connected to the school and peers.

      1. My childs teacher is not. she signs on at 9:45, in class 2 hours, off for an hour, back in a for an hour, done for the day. The teachers should be required to teach teir classes in ther classrooms, not on the couch in pajamas!

    2. Hold your bullpucky there. My kids teachers are working every day with my kids. Live classes, office hours and lots of extra help when needed. So those that know absolutely NOTHING about how hard teachers are working should just keep their traps shut.

      1. Judging by these reply’s they only prove once again how liberals overlook the big picture and react as always on emotion. Appears they figure that the bulk of the millions collected yearly from property taxes go to teachers salaries. A big chunk is paid to administrators then there’s maintenance, and utilities. Oregon estimates utility costs annually per student at $130 per, Bend Lapine district has over 30k students. And then consider the cost of $14k per year to operate 1 school bus. I’d say we’re due a refund.

      2. This has nothing to do with how hard your teachers are working. I respect them all and they are handcuffed. But, the expenses to operate schools I’m sure have dropped by a huge percentage.

      1. Millions spent on buildings and facilities and you talk about the teachers. Go to school and learn you might find out you are totally full of crap. School buses drive all over hell with no one in wasting our money. This is nothing but a big bunch of Biden crap. Vote trump or you can kiss your a– goodbye.

    3. I agree. Teachers are working hard, but my 11th grader has maybe 2 hours of class a day. This whole thing is a joke and our children are paying the price, and us through taxes.

  4. Jumping the gun and listening to the loudest voices seems to be how this is playing out. Prematurely get kids back in school, and then you will start hearing from a completely different part of the constituency that will be upset about that. Yesterday there were record numbers statewide, and Deschutes County had two consecutive record days in a row (26 and 25) that aren’t even related to workplace or cluster gatherings/outbreaks. Leave the metrics where they are. I’m glad we live in a state that has taken this more seriously than most from the beginning, and that’s why our numbers are relatively good comparative. The more serious we take this now, the quicker we will recover,economically, mentally and socially. Return to school too early and you risk closing back down, and it will be even worse for kids because of the uncertainty and having the carpet pulled out from under them again.

  5. According to the CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm
    The US Death rate from all causes: 867.8 deaths per 100,000 population
    So here is some math.. The Bend and surrounding area has about 200,000 people so 1736 die a year in the Bend area FROM OTHER CAUSES! So far IN 8 MONTHS 13 people have died of Covid 19… maybe.. or is it 6% of those 13 people. Most of those were at the memory care facility. All were old and all had other health issues.
    This is a Joke, I would wager more people died of suicide from being isolated than the actual Virus.

    1. Just wait for it. Someone will argue that we shut down everything and keep our kids out of school because of 13 deaths. These people are unbelievable and cannot take into account the big pic. The amount of death that will be caused by this strategy of keeping the schools closed will be magnitudes higher then Covid deaths. I

    2. Yup….and guess what else I’ve been saying, things might change after the election. Curious isn’t that cases are rising, yet Lord Brown is going to tweak “her” metrics to allow kids back to school? Very very strange. My next prediction is if Trump wins, big closures.

  6. A lot of this garbage from those who bring up death rates and compare it to flu, car accidents etc really need a slide rule to figure this out? If you or someone you loved got sick and/or died your tune would change like you see everyday with people denying it then warn people after getting it to take it seriously. Teachers are underpaid and unappreciated as it is so if they have to protect themselves to teach your kids and lord forbid get paid? You want a tax refund? Just saying it makes people look like selfish ignorant fools.

    1. Teachers knew the pay rates and the job requirements when they sighed up so no sympathy there. It’s like those that move next to an airport then complain about the noise.

  7. Things have certainly changed. Now she is willing to increase the potential risk
    in order to get a small percentage of kids back in school, and it would appear that
    she has changed her perspective on wearing a mask too, because she always has a mask
    on for her photo ops. She must have already gotten bored with her fancy masks with the
    Oregon logo on them. I wonder how much money she wasted having those little novelty
    items made up ?

    1. As was explained at the start of the broadcast, when she sat down wearing a mask, as did others, the officials took them off for those who read lips, not sign language, and they all were maintaining social distancing and had recently done new air filtration in the room/building or somesuch.

      1. Barney what the hell makes you the official of the right or the left. A good news person would listen and let the people make their own decisions, we sure don’t need indoctrination from a biased CNN liberal. But I truly understand that Bend is being a mouth piece for the liberal agenda.

        1. I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion that Barney made decisions for me.
          He simply answered a question, and explained why the information pertaining to
          my question was in the video, which I didn’t watch, but not in the article…
          I do agree that CNN is very liberally biased, that’s no secret, but there certainly wasn’t any indoctrination on Barneys part…

  8. Something I haven’t heard too much about is that covid type viruses, according to history, generally die out 18-24 months. Guess the politicians & drug companies are going to use it to their benefit til then.

  9. Yo Barney, if my math is correct Deschutes is good. Have to be below 50 per 100K. We have 181K people in the county. Our bogie is 91 cases prwvious 2 weeks for full in class teaching. Our new case for the last few weeks is 75, 57, 85. Are my numbers correct?

    Weekly Cases:
    https://www.deschutes.org/sites/default/files/imageattachments/health/page/12369/epi_curve_10.26.png

    Population:
    https://www.deschutes.org/administration/page/about-deschutes-county

  10. Case numbers are just that – case numbers. That’s not a death rate or ANY indication of impeding doom. I’d like to see the numbers and cases of death in children 0-19 in the state of Oregon since March 2020. What’s really killing children? It’s not COVID. And where exactly is she getting her so called “data”? Of yes – from those literal clowns at the OHA who can’t tell the truth. I wonder why so many of us have switch political parties? We can’t trust the democratic leaders or most news outlets – we want honesty and truth and we are not getting that from Kate Brown or anyone else in Oregon. This is an injustice to our children and their futures.

  11. “I know we’re all sick of hearing it,” Brown said. “This is a time for each of us to take a deep breath and reflect on the steps we need to take to keep everyone safe.”

    But not too big of a breath and with a muzzle on and in your own home, please don’t breathe in public or I will mandate it.

  12. Oregon cases are rising, yet Lord Brown is allowing “some” students back to school??? Unbelievable. You know, it’s almost feeling……..as if the state government is using covid as a….political weapon against us.

  13. Wow, right after the election, that’s amazing. No one on here has been saying that….lol. Still holding a lot of other students hostage. She literally said schools are not super spreaders. So why can’t all kids go back to school? I never understood this. If anything young kids get sicker with everything more than high school.

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