Gov. Kate Brown has called on the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to mandate masks indoors for K–12 schools statewide for the 2021–22 school year, following updated guidance from the CDC and as the Delta variant takes hold in Oregon.
“The science and data are clear: the Delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious,” Brown stated in a July 29 news release. “My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions. With many children still ineligible to be vaccinated, masks are an effective way to help keep our kids safe in the classroom, the learning environment we know serves them best.”
The news comes as many Oregon school districts announce reopening plans for fall, though Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, has yet to announce its full fall plan.
"With updated guidance coming seemingly every day, in fact even in the last hour, from local, state, and national pubic health agencies, we are in the last stages of final decisions on protocols for fall," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said at a school board meeting on Tuesday, July 27. "We hold the health and safety of our students and staff as our highest consideration. We want to make the absolute best decision we can with the most timely information available, including public health guidance and consideration of fluctuating COVID trends in our area, vs. being hasty to share any guidance or instructions prematurely."
“The highly contagious #DeltaVariant has increased tenfold in the past two weeks in Oregon, and it's now estimated to be associated w/ 80% of the new cases in Oregon. OHA continues to encourage all Oregonians who are eligible to make a plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible."— OR Health Authority (@OHAOregon) July 27, 2021
Brown, who lifted the statewide mask mandate at the end of June, had previously left school masking decisions to the school districts. But with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases around the state and increasing prevalence of the Delta variant, the Oregon Health Authority has revised its recommendations toward universal mask use in public indoor settings. The CDC this week also changed its guidance, recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.