Oregon Health, Education Agencies: In-Person Classes at Risk | Oregon News



SALEM, Ore. (AP) — With masks stretched over their faces, students and teachers returned to Oregon schools Monday after the holidays, but state officials fear an unprecedented wave of COVID -19 won’t force a return to online learning.

Oregon reported more than 9,700 new COVID-19 cases Monday from the holiday weekend and broke a previous record for weekly coronavirus cases averaging about 2,400 new cases per day.

“Students’ access to in-person instruction is at serious risk,” the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority said Monday.

They suggested schools suspend extracurricular activities or ensure they follow safety protocols. They also warned that rapid transmission of the omicron variant is expected in indoor settings where people are not wearing masks and following other safety protocols, such as maintaining physical distancing and washing hands.

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Monday marked the first day of school after the Christmas holidays, although some schools remained closed due to a severe winter storm. Teachers feared that if the virus spreads quickly, online classes would have to resume. Online teaching during the 2020-2021 school year has been a challenge for educators and students.

“We know our students learn best in person, where they have access to other essential services onsite,” the state education and health departments said.

According to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, an outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant is expected to peak in late January with hospitalizations of around 1,650 people. Hospitalizations in Oregon peaked at 1,187 on September 1 during the surge in delta-variant infections.

The Oregon Health Authority also reported that 18.2% of COVID-19 tests administered over the long weekend tested positive for the virus, the highest positivity rate seen in the state so far. Hospitalizations, however, hovered at 498 people, less than half the number from the previous peak. Eleven deaths were announced on Monday. There are 60 adult intensive care unit beds available statewide.

Meanwhile, a statewide reading contest called Oregon Battle of the Books has announced that it will be holding its tournament online. The competition’s board called the decision painful but explained that the health of students and families is paramount and that, in addition, venues hosting the tournament cannot take bookings due to COVID-19. .

Schools can offer testing for the virus and are about to increase that capacity with state help. The Oregon Health Authority announced last week that it had ordered 6 million COVID-19 rapid test kits, with each kit containing two tests. They will be distributed to local public health authorities and Native American tribes, agricultural workers, schools, health care workers and other sectors.

“We knew we had to be prepared for future variations so that we could continue to protect the most vulnerable in our communities while keeping our schools, businesses and communities open,” Governor Kate Brown said.

Flaccus reported from Lake Oswego, Oregon.

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