Deadline fast approaching for healthcare and school workers to be vaccinated

Oregon Administrative Rule 333-019-1010 requires healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated before Oct. 18, 2021, and OAR 333-019-0130 requires school employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by the same date. “Fully vaccinated” means having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and waiting two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. For the FDA-approved Pfizer/N-Biotech vaccine, the first dose would need to be administered on or before Monday, Sept. 13 in order to reach “full vaccination” status by Oct. 18. For the Moderna vaccine, the first dose would have needed to be received by Monday, Sept. 6, in order to meet the Oct. 18 deadline. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine would need to be administered on or before Oct. 4 to reach “full vaccination” status by the Oct. 18 deadline.

Free drive-up testing and vaccination clinics are held every Tuesday through October at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., Ontario, Ore., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local physician offices and pharmacies also offer the free vaccine. Contact your provider to schedule an appointment.

Updated guidance for schools is released

As part of its planned guidance and metrics review process with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) released an update to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance.

The updated guidance includes updated advisory metrics for in-person instruction. The metrics are based on the latest COVID-19 studies and data and help Oregon’s schools make informed decisions about returning to in-person instruction.

While health metrics have shifted from required to advisory, schools must follow all the required guidelines. All staff must be trained on the first three sections of Ready Schools, Safe Learners and schools need to designate a school leader to implement, support and enforce health and safety protocols.

A new requirement, that when students and staff return to in-person instruction out of alignment with the advised metrics, schools must offer access to on-site COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students and staff identified on campus as well as those with known exposure to individuals with COVID-19.

The update also includes multiple new resources to support learning outside, field trips, equitable grading practices, attendance best practices, contact tracing partnerships, COVID-19 testing, and more.

A video of ODE Director Colt Gill explaining the updates is available. 

MCHD Will Work with School Districts to Return Students to the Classroom

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) commends the Governor’s announcement yesterday to put more Oregon schools on track to return to in-person instruction, beginning as early as January 2021. Read the press release here. Local public health will continue working closely with school districts to follow their Ready Schools, Safe Learners Blueprints and allow more students back into the classroom in person, full time.

“As public health workers, we are very aware of the hardships that students, teachers, and parents have endured while schools are closed to regular in-person instruction and we support the efforts to return students to the classroom, where we know they thrive best,” said Sarah Poe, MCHD Director.

As a community with a nearly 30% childhood poverty rate, our schools are critical supports to the many needs families have not just for learning, but addressing many of their social determinants of health. Rural, high-poverty counties are disproportionately affected by the hardships of both COVID-19 and remote learning. For many months of this pandemic, the counties with the highest incident rate of COVID-19 cases were also counties with a high number of people of color, essential jobs in high-risk industries that cannot be done remotely, a lack of childcare providers, and less community social supports to narrow the gap in capacity to effectively and safely provide distance learning. All of these risk factors negatively affect social determinants of health and have resulted in not only a disproportionate impact of severe COVID-19, but also more students at home without safe and equitable support to sustain distance learning.

COVID-19 vaccines will be available to essential workers, including school teachers and staff, soon after the priority group of healthcare workers has had access to the vaccine. We hope to have more information on county vaccine distribution plans soon.

Thank you to the many advocates who worked on state and local levels to meet the needs of students, teachers, school staff, and families during this crisis. Thank you to Governor Brown for her decision to support a more local response.