Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday she and other state leaders in the coming weeks will be reevaluating the metrics used to determine when K-12 schools can reopen in-person.
Brown did not specify whether there would be changes to state or county coronavirus caseload metrics.
“We’re still exploring this issue,” Brown said in a press conference, “but I think it’s fair to say the statewide metric, frankly, is quite challenging for communities around the state, and my top priority is that we get our kids back into school safely.”
The state also requires counties to have no more than 10 positive cases per 100,000 residents in order to open to in-person instruction for children in grades 4-12, or up to 30 cases per 100,000 for younger students, with some exceptions. However, regardless of how individual Oregon counties are doing as far as positive coronavirus cases, contact tracing and other factors go, there’s a requirement that the state’s test positivity rate be below 5% for three consecutive weeks — though that metric was suspended in September as wildfires interfered with testing.
“I think we’ve got enough experience now to be able to look at the utility of that metric as an indicator of a broad level of coronavirus in the community generally and ask whether that statewide metric is indicative enough of disease that it should override local metrics,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said Tuesday. “We’ll be looking at all the metrics, but I think that’s an example of the kind of thing we’ll be evaluating.”
Brown and Allen also touched on the increase in Oregon’s coronavirus test capacity.
The state is expected to have 60,000 to 80,000 new rapid antigen tests each week through the end of this year. That roughly doubles Oregon’s current testing capacity.
The influx of new tests comes at a crucial time, as Allen said coronavirus cases have increased by 25% since Aug. 31, with the average number of daily cases increasing from 220 to 285.
Allen said the increased testing capacity is allowing the state to expand its testing guidelines.
“Under our new guidelines, we’re not only recommending testing for everyone who has the symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of the severity of symptoms, we’re also recommending the testing of all close contacts of people who are infected regardless of whether or not a close contact has any symptoms,” Allen said.
Testing sites will also be expanded for congregate-care facilities, the Oregon Department of Corrections, community testing locations, schools and other settings.