Oregon Health Authority adopts ‘permanent’ rules for masking in schools

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has adopted “permanent” rules for masking in schools, requiring children to mask “unless the state director of public health or the public health officer of the state issues an order declaring that some or all of the requirements of this rule are no longer necessary to control COVID-19.

Oregon officials have long floated to make mask rules a more “permanent” fixture in the state, and they have made it a reality — at least for school settings.

“Children are required to attend school, which is a gathering place where COVID-19 can spread easily if precautions are not taken,” reads the OHA rule, identifying the masks and vaccinations as “two of the most important tools the state has to control COVID.” -19”:

To protect students who, for reasons of age or medical conditions, are not eligible for vaccination, and those who have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19, as well that to minimize disruption to student education in schools due to exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, requiring the universal use of masks or face coverings in schools is necessary.

“The requirements of this rule remain in effect unless the state director of public health or state public health officer issues an order stating that some or all of the requirements of this rule are not no longer needed to control COVID-19,” the rule continues, essentially making masking in schools permanent and entirely dependent on the whims of officials.

Kati Moseley, Safe Learners Resilience Manager for the Oregon Department of Education, wrote a letter Jan. 28 addressed to “superintendents, heads of private schools, heads of charter schools, school nurses, counselors reopening”, informing them of the new “temporary” permanent status rule”.

“Temporary rules expire, permanent rules are repealed. The OHA has said it will continue to review the need for this rule and will rescind or repeal the rule as soon as it is safe to do so,” she wrote.

“However, the virus sets the timeline,” she continued. “These measures are needed now because vaccination and the universal and correct use of face coverings are among the most powerful mitigation tools available to protect in-person teaching.”

Moseley stressed that schools “absolutely cannot serve a student in person if they or their family choose not to wear a face covering.”

The ‘permanent’ rule comes as other Blue State leaders begin to relax mask mandates for children two years into the pandemic. On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the end of mask mandates for children in schools in March, and Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) made a similar announcement, as did the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who largely led the way in banning mandatory mask mandates in schools.


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