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New OHA testing program changes quarantine protocol in schools

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Unvaccinated asymptomatic students may now use the test to stay program to continue going to school after a known exposure. 

Unvaccinated asymptomatic students may now to continue attending school after a known exposure, the Oregon Health Authority announced on Tuesday.

Previously, unvaccinated students had to quarantine at home for seven to 10 days after a known exposure.

“The test-to-stay program is an essential tool for maintaining access to in-person learning,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education. “This will greatly reduce the number of students who miss school for quarantine.”

A rapid antigen test will be administered twice: once as soon as the exposure is confirmed, and another test five to seven days later. Students may attend school between the two tests as long as they continue to wear face coverings and social distance from other students.

Outside of school, students must quarantine at home for seven days. The test-to-stay program only applies to exposures within schools, not a home or community exposure.

According to Gill, 170 out of 197 Oregon school districts use the OHA diagnostic testing program, which now includes the test-to-stay program. The success of the program hinges on three key factors:

1. Each school’s fidelity in implementing layered protocols to reduce the spread of the virus, such as indoor face coverings, social distancing, reduced close contact time, increased air flow and frequent hand washing.

2. A stable and adequate test kit supply

3. Each school’s ability to fully administer the program

“Staff are taking on many new and demanding roles during the pandemic,” Gill said. “This is one more ask of our educators. Implementing this protocol ensures more of our students can access their education with stability throughout this pandemic.”

Gill added that when enough students are vaccinated, this protocol may no longer be needed. It’s a free program that does not require insurance, and immigration status is not a factor.

OHA also announced on Tuesday that face coverings are no longer required in outdoor settings. The responsibility now falls on individual school leaders to ensure that students are safe outside during extracurricular activities and recess.

Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_. 

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