KEY PRACTICES FOR REDUCING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS:
Vaccination - Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to stop the pandemic, and return society to more typical functioning. Currently, everyone age 12 and older are eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccine. CDC guidance states that people who are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine or get tested after an exposure to someone with COVID-19. This protects the student’s access to in-person learning, sports and extracurricular activities. People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or 2 weeks after the singledose Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Protective Equipment - Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a face mask in school buildings.
Physical Distancing - OHA and ODE strongly advise that schools support and promote physical distancing as described below:
- Support physical distancing in all daily activities and instruction, maintaining at least 3 feet between students to the extent possible. Maintaining physical distancing should not preclude return to full-time, in-person instruction for all students.
- When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as wearing face coverings.
- Consider physical distancing requirements when setting up learning and other spaces, arranging spaces and groups to allow and encourage at least 3 feet of physical distance.
- Minimize time standing in lines and take steps to ensure that required distance between students is maintained, including marking spacing on floor, one-way traffic flow in constrained spaces, etc.
Hand Hygiene - Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Washing hands can keep you healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next. All schools have been provided handwashing stations and an abundance of hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you:
- Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands.
- Touch a contaminated surface or objects.
- Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects.
Airflow & Circulation - Ventilation is a primary tool to reduce viral spread indoors and promote a healthy learning environment. Indoor air spaces need special consideration because of potential COVID-19 transmission from the buildup in air of smaller particles and aerosols that are generated from breathing, talking, laughing, shouting, singing, coughing, and sneezing. While a properly fitting face covering or mask can limit the release of most respiratory droplets and aerosols, smaller particles or aerosols that pass through can remain airborne for minutes to hours, depending on ventilation, humidity, and other factors. ODE and OHA strongly advise schools to ensure effective ventilation and improve the indoor air quality in schools by:
- Increasing the amount of fresh outside air that is introduced into the system;
- Exhausting air from indoors to the outdoors; and
- Cleaning the air that is recirculated indoors with effective filtration methods (e.g., HEPA filters) to remove virus-containing particles from the air. CDC Guidance on Ventilation in schools.
Cohorts - Cohorting is a significant strategy to reduce COVID-19 spread. Cohorting refers to establishing a consistent group of students that stays together for a significant portion of the school day. OHA and ODE strongly advise that schools design cohorts for students to the extent possible. Cohorts help manage risks in the potential spread of COVID-19. In particular, the size of the cohort matters for risk management. Student cohorting: (1) limits the number of exposed people when a COVID-19 case is identified in the school, (2) quickly identifies exposed individuals when a COVID-19 case is identified, (3) minimizes the number of people who may need to be quarantined as well as school-wide disruptions in student learning.
In alignment with recommendations from the CDC, the following exception from quarantine is effective in the K–12 indoor classroom setting: students who were within 3 or more feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting face coverings; and other K–12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct face covering use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K–12 school setting. This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.
Isolation & Quarantine - Definitions:
- Isolation separates people who have a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
- Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease and could become infectious themselves to limit further spread of the disease.
- Health care and a designated space that is appropriately supervised and adequately equipped for providing first aid and isolating the sick or injured child are required by OAR 581-022-2220.
Isolation and quarantine are core components under the authority of public health (LPHAs and OHA) as described in ORS 431A.010, 433.004, 433.441, and 433.443. Schools and districts must cooperate with any LPHA investigations and requirements to protect public health. LPHAs follow statewide Investigative Guidelines for COVID-19and other diseases.