Oregon has issued new school metrics and updated guidance last week that will make it easier for in-person instruction to resume and will emphasize returning elementary school students to the classroom.

The new metrics allow Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam to have higher COVID-19 case counts than original metrics; however, they also require low county test percent positivity rates in order to have in-person school, according to a press release from the North Central Public Health District (NCPHD).

Among other changes to the metrics, statewide test percent positivity rates no longer apply.

While state metrics first issued in August required Wasco County, for example, to have less than three COVID-19 cases per week for three consecutive weeks before students at larger schools (250 students or more) could return to the classroom, now, in-person or hybrid education is allowed if there are less than 30 cases over two weeks, and the test positivity rate is under 5 percent.

School size is no longer a factor under the new metrics (with the exception of very small, remote schools of 75 of fewer students, according to NCPHD).

In the latest two-week period, from Oct. 18-31, Wasco County had 30 cases and a test positivity rate of 8.1 percent. If the 14-day case count is between 30 and 44 and the test positivity rate is less than 8 percent, that allows careful phasing in of onsite or hybrid schooling, starting with K-3 and adding grades up to grade six. Then, in consultation with the local public health agency, and tracking limited spread over the prior four weeks, a school could thoughtfully expand to middle school or high school in the same fashion.

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