Tell OHA to keep COVID-19 as a restrictable disease and reinstate a five-day isolation period!

This school year, Oregon is no longer asking all students and teachers with COVID-19 to stay home. Instead, COVID-positive people only have to stay home if they have symptoms; under current school guidance, asymptomatic and presymptomatic people with COVID are allowed to attend school, even though they can also transmit COVID-19. In May, Oregon got rid of state guidance to isolate for five days if you have COVID, instead only basing isolation on symptoms, which does not follow the science.

In connection with this, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has proposed to formally remove COVID from the state's list of restrictable diseases. OHA has a list of diseases - including COVID-19, chickenpox, infectious TB, and measles - where people need to stay home from school, childcare, food service facilities, and healthcare while contagious. Healthcare facilities would follow federal guidelines, but in the other locations, COVID would no longer be a restrictable disease. Oregon hasn't merely proposed this change; in practice, this is now how Oregon's schools are approaching COVID, treating it like "other common infections," as OHA has said. COVID-19 continues to cause serious illness, including Long COVID, and death, and Oregon's approach doesn’t match CDC guidance, which says that everyone with COVID should isolate for at least five days.

Oregon's policies on COVID-19 in schools and isolation are dangerous, because asymptomatic and presymptomatic people also spread COVID and make up a significant number of cases. Allowing people with COVID at school encourages spread; leads to higher rates of COVID-19 and Long COVID in schools, homes, and the community; and students and teachers who are at disproportionate risk, including people of color and disabled people, are further left out of access to public spaces, access which they are guaranteed by law.

OHA held a public hearing on this and other proposed changes on 9/18, and public comment was accepted through 9/21 at 5 pm. As the public comment period has ended, you can use this form to send letters to decision-makers at the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education, and the Governor's Office urging them to keep COVID as a restrictable disease and to incorporate commonsense public health policy.

(A reminder when submitting that letters are public record.)

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