Oregon to pause quarantining for exposure as cases and hospitalizations drop

Key takeaways:

  • People who test positive will continue to isolate for five days and wear a mask in public settings for an additional five days.
  • People, including those in school settings, who are exposed to a positive case will no longer need to quarantine while awaiting testing.
  • Guidelines do not change for high-risk settings, such as health care, jails, prisons and shelters.
  • If you have any symptoms or feel ill, stay home, and keep your children home if they are ill.

Starting March 12, 2022, contact tracing and quarantine for exposure will be paused for the general population in Oregon, including K-12 and childcare settings. These measures will still be recommended in high-risk settings, including health care settings, jails and prisons, and shelters.

“Given how quickly transmission occurs and the number of people who have no – or very mild – symptoms and do not come to the timely attention of public health officials, tools such as case investigation and contact tracing are no longer as effective in most settings,” said Dean E. Sidelinger, M.D., M.S. Ed., state health officer and epidemiologist.

The decision to pause contact tracing and quarantine is based in science and reflects recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It acknowledges that these practices now have very limited impact on reducing the transmission of COVID-19 outside of high-risk settings.

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the majority of Oregon’s population has some level of immunity against COVID-19. According to data from Oregon Health and Science University, an estimated 86% of Oregon’s population currently has been vaccinated, infected, or a combination of the two, protecting them against severe infections in the coming months. As the Omicron surge recedes, we are able to change some of our approaches to public health safety.

Effective March 12, quarantine will no longer be recommended for people within the general population who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. This includes children and staff in K-12 and childcare settings. Rather than contact tracing, school officials and childcare providers will be strongly encouraged to notify families when cases are identified. These notifications allow individuals and families to take additional precautions according to their unique needs.

Schools may begin offering “enhanced exposure testing” for students and staff with known COVID-19 exposures who are at increased risk of severe illness. Students and staff may continue to attend school regardless of their participation in enhanced exposure testing. Click here for more on COVID-19 guidance in Oregon’s K-12 schools.

Isolation guidelines apply to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms, and these are not changing. Individuals with COVID-19 are still recommended to stay home for five days, then wear a mask for an additional five days when they are around other people. Schools will continue to exclude students from school for five days if they have symptoms or a known case of COVID-19.

“It’s important to remember that while the worst of the current surge is behind us, COVID-19 still exists. It will continue to cause disease, even as we transition into the next phase,” Sidelinger said.

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