Brown urges social distancing to reduce COVID-19 cases and allow schools to reopen
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that Oregon is deploying new rapid COVID-19 tests to help track outbreaks. School health care providers will be among the priority recipients but increased testing alone won’t be enough to resume in-person teaching, Brown said.
“We absolutely cannot test our way out of this pandemic,” Brown said at a news conference. “The increased testing capacity is certainly not a hall pass to flout safety protocols.”
Brown also announced Oregon would be re-evaluating its metrics for allowing schools to offer in-person classes. State officials are looking at the interplay of state standards and individual community situations.
Small and remote school districts especially have pressed to offer in-person learning. The Oregon Department of Education bent its metric rules this week to allow the Winston-Dillard School District’s plans to open its high school, and the Adrian School District has sued for the right to open.
Oregon COVID-19 cases have increased by 25% since Aug. 31, partly attributable to Labor Day weekend gatherings and the upheaval from wildfire evacuations. As the weather gets cooler and wetter, state officials worry more gatherings in homes will increase rates further.
The federal government will be supplying 60,000 to 80,000 rapid antigen tests a week, roughly doubling Oregon’s testing capacity. The tests provide results in 15 minutes. Health officials will be able to diagnose cases quicker so that people can be treated and quarantined.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen, the Sherwood School Board chair, said recent increases in the state’s cases show that informal gatherings in people’s homes have been significant spreaders of the disease.
“To reopen schools safely and sustainably we must reduce the amount of COVID in our communities,” Allen said at the news conference.
Brown said the state would continue to look at the science and data to control the spread of the disease and allow children to return to schools. She urged people to use masks, observe social distancing and avoid large gatherings.
“If we want to get our kids back in school, we all have to make sacrifices,” Brown said.