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School officials urged to reinstate COVID-19 precautions amid a surge of respiratory virus outbreaks in schools.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A student wearing a mask in school.Amid another outbreak of cases in multiple schools across Oregon, health and education officials released a joint advisory Friday recommending that school administrators return to COVID-19 safety measures before remote learning becomes necessary.

The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education renewed their calls for caution "in direct response" to COVID-19 cases rising in six counties and other respiratory diseases spreading in communities across the state.

"As students and staff have gathered indoors without face coverings for protection, Oregon has experienced an increase in cases of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19," officials said in the news release sent Friday, May 13. "The combined burden of COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses co-occurring in our communities means that schools will need to continue to be vigilant about health and safety in order to protect in-person instruction."

Six counties rose from "low" to "medium" status in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 Community Levels. Those include the tri-county metro area — Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — as well as Columbia, Benton and Deschutes Counties.

Multnomah County health officials issued a similar message earlier in the week, warning residents to cover their faces once again when inside and in crowded settings. Cases in the metro area are up 43% compared with two weeks ago, with statewide hospitalizations crossing 200 for the first time since March.

Health officials told schools to continue offering free COVID tests to students and staff and to reimplement masking policies — whether as a voluntary or mandatory measure — before any potential move to remote learning.

Schools also are required to report "unusual" levels of absenteeism to their local public health offices.

Officials told families to keep children sick with COVID-like symptoms at home and to ask for a test from the local school or pharmacy. OHA offers a service to find the nearest vaccine and testing service here.

Getting vaccinated is still the best way to reduce spread and protect against severe COVID-19 illness, officials said. OHA and ODE again urged families to vaccinate eligible students ages 5 and older.

The current advisory for schools lasts through the summer until Aug. 31.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.


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