PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With the back-to-school season quickly approaching, Oregon health and school officials are making plans for a safe return as COVID-19 lingers.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education shared what families and students can expect this year regarding COVID precautions. Along with that, they detailed the importance of COVID-19 vaccines and routine childhood immunizations.
The press conference began at 1 p.m. Wednesday and featured Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and epidemiologist at OHA, and Colt Gill, the director of ODE.
When it comes to COVID-19, OHA says hospitalizations in Oregon are down. They also say there are far fewer people in the ICU with COVID than there were at the peak.
Seventy percent of Oregonians are vaccinated and OHA is encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated if they haven’t been already ahead of the school year and to keep your kids home if they are sick.
On Thursday, the CDC dropped quarantining for COVID as long individuals don’t feel sick, get tested after five days and wear a high-quality mask around others for 10 days.
Local schools have told KOIN 6 News they are in the process of figuring out COVID rules for the fall. Despite vaccines being available for all school-age kids, no district requires students to be vaccinated against COVID.
The schools intend to follow the CDC recommendations and say masks will continue to be optional.
Along with COVID, some parents have expressed concern regarding the spread of monkeypox in the classroom. Despite the first pediatric case now being confirmed, Sidelinger says there’s a slim chance of contracting the virus in a school setting since it typically spreads with direct contact with the rash, scabs or body fluids of a person.
During the press conference, OHA made it clear the child got monkeypox from an adult and not “at school, childcare or another community.”
According to OHA, there are 116 presumptive and confirmed monkeypox cases in Oregon and nearly 13,000 nationwide.
KOIN 6 News asked Sidelinger about OHA’s plans to mitigate spread in schools.
“Right now, I don’t think there are extra measures that we need to take to put in place in schools to slow the spread. This disease does not spread like COVID-19 or other diseases we worry about spreading in schools,” Sidelinger said.
Sidelinger noted they would also be doing routine cleaning and educating parents on when you shouldn’t send your kids to school.
“We’re asking … parents keep their kids home if they’re sick,” Sidelinger said. “In general, being in a classroom … would not put that person at risk.”