The Oregon Health Authority has responded to the Redmond School Board about its request for local control over COVID precautions, saying “the virus sets the timeline.”
“The goal is to return to local decision-making. However, the virus sets the timeline,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “We anticipate vaccines becoming available for children under the age of 12 in the coming weeks, which will bring us closer to community immunity and reduce the need for the tools we are currently using to curb the spread of the virus.”
Masks remain an important layer of protection for students, he said. And it’s one of the precautions that’s allowing students to remain in classrooms across the state.
Last month, the Redmond School Board sent a letter to Allen and Gov. Kate Brown calling for more information on how they’re reviewing current mask requirements, asking for “clear information on when we can expect local decision making to return.”
In the letter, board members reminded the state officials they promised to review the mask requirement in schools on a monthly basis to determine if it needed to continue.
“Since then, OHA has never provided any evidence of its monthly review, nor has it provided any information to the public about what, if any, guidelines it would use to determine when masks were no longer required in K-12 schools and when districts could expect local decision-making to return,” the letter reads. “The Redmond School District Board of Directors is asking OHA to immediately provide school districts and boards with a clear explanation of what its reviews look like, when they are held, and what information is considered in continuing the statewide school mask mandate.”
Allen responded saying OHA’s senior health advisors have reviewed CDC data and research monthly to determine if masks were still needed in school settings.
“At the November 2nd review, the Senior Health Advisors agreed that there should be no change in mask requirement at this time,” Allen said. “Research continues to show benefits of masks as part of a layered mitigation strategy in schools. Cases are still high (per CDC) across Oregon, including some of the highest numbers among children from throughout the pandemic, there has been no vaccine available for those under 12 until today (and it will take some time before a large number of children are vaccinated), and hospital capacity is still very strained.”
Deschutes County COVID cases spiked again last week, jumping from 651 to 789, the highest weekly tally since early October.
The Redmond School DIstrict’s COVID dashboard shows there are currently 36 COVID cases in the schools; 26 students and 10 teachers.
You can read Patrick Allen’s full response below.21_1103_Redmond School Board of Directors Response