Recently, the Oregon Health Authority updated its COVID-19 quarantine and exposure rules for students and staff in a K-12 setting. The journey you take to find this document is a perilous one, but it was found: Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework for the 2021-22 School Year. This document was updated Jan. 27.
It recommends the standard: three foot physical distancing, avoiding physical contact such as handshakes or high fives, and mask wearing. But, the most change has happened in the section about quarantine protocols and what is considered an exposure. You no longer have to quarantine if you have been exposed and are fully vaccinated (5-17) and boosted (18+) or have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days. Additionally, if you came in contact with someone who had been exposed to a positive case you are not required to quarantine.
While these new guidelines will lower absences in the short term, in the long term it may cause more cases, especially with new, more contagious variants. But, one of the starkest changes of these new instructions say that if you are wearing a mask and exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, it is no longer considered an exposure. No matter the distance or time exposed.
“The district has decided to drop the mask mandate on March 12 and move to mask optional”
Superintendent Debbie Brockett
Masks are not 100 percent effective, and many students wear masks incorrectly. Surgical and cloth masks are proving less and less effective, and many do not have access to KN-95s or N-95s.
Compared to the exposure guidelines for the general public: it is considered an exposure if you come in contact with someone who came in contact with a positive case. Also, if you were six feet or less away from a person who had a confirmed or presumed case of Covid-19, it is also considered a substantial exposure.
Why are the rules for the general public so different from the ones for the students and staff of the K-12 settings? The easy answer is that we really want the schools to stay open. If too many teachers get sick, we have to switch back to CDL. Recently, the amount of student and staff absences has been astounding. On any day in January, around a third of the student population was absent. Students are having one or two substitute teachers a week. While teachers and students alike have been handling this well, it is definitely not ideal.
With the impending lifting of the Oregon indoor mask mandate, we could finally be back to semi-normalcy. Or, it could take a turn for the worse. There is no way of knowing at the moment. But the students and staff of MHS are hopeful. Dr. Fast, our principal, is optimistic about the restrictions loosening: “My gut says it’s time to see each other again.”