SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown says she has directed state education and health officials to require masks indoors for K-12 schools this coming school year, following recent guidance from the CDC and a nationwide uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Brown said that she has asked the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to create a rule that would require masks indoors for K-12 schools statewide for the 2021-22 school year, "in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated guidance, and based on the latest science on the spread of the Delta variant."
“The science and data are clear: the Delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious,” said Governor Brown. “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."
Few southern Oregon school districts had yet to make a firm decision on whether to require face coverings as of this week, though many were leaning toward making them optional or recommended. The ODE's current guidance leaves the decision up to individual districts and schools, but requires more stringent quarantine protocols for positive cases where mask are not required.
After the CDC updated its mask guidance earlier this week, the Oregon Health Authority quickly came out with a similar prescription at the state level, calling for universal mask use indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As of this week, the new guidance constitutes a strong recommendation and not a mandate.
“In the meantime, as we ask Oregonians statewide to mask up in public indoor spaces, we will continue working hard to vaccinate more people so we can finally beat this virus once and for all," Brown continued. "Vaccines remain the most effective and best way to protect ourselves and our families.”
The Medford School District originally planned on sharing their locally-developed mask guidance with their Board of Directors on Monday, but are canceling the meeting due to Brown's rule.
"To those who submitted comments for the meeting, we will be forwarding those to the state," said Bret Champion, superintendent of Medford School District. "If you would like to submit a comment you may do so until Monday via our form or you may send it directly to the Governor’s office."
Champion said in a statement that the district will continue working to provide the best possible education for students, while prioritizing the health and wellness of students, staff and the rest of the community.