Latest metrics take more in-person learning opportunities off the table
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Monday’s coronavirus metrics report soundly closed the door on hopes for more schools’ offering in-person instruction, with case counts going up in nearly every county.
The Oregon Department of Education relaxed its coronavirus thresholds on Oct. 30, but each new report has moved more counties into restrictions on in-person learning.
Nineteen counties are in the red, with case counts so high ODE will allow only distance learning. Only seven counties, nearly all of them sparsely populated, were in the green or yellow zones that allow some in-person classes.
The metrics in ODE’s “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance are based on case counts over a two-week period and a county’s population. ODE gives schools whose metrics allow in-person instruction a two-week grace period to start up even if counts rise but has encouraged school leaders to work with health officials to assess specific local dangers.
Oregon case counts have been climbing steeply for three weeks, with daily counts topping 1,000.
On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown announced a two-week restriction on businesses and social gatherings to try to break the cycle and encouraged people to avoid travel. The Nov. 18-Dec. 2 “pause” does not apply to schools’ in-person instruction, but it does close gyms and indoor pools. School sports guidance is expected this week.
Although the order does not directly affect schools, ODE Director Colt Gill said in a recent announcement that reducing case counts is essential to resuming in-person instruction. He said staff should work from home where possible, and schools should clearly communicate safety protocols.
He encouraged schools to add a travel question to their screening process and to ask staff and students to self-quarantine if they do.