The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) adopted “permanent” rules for masking in schools, forcing children to mask up “unless the State Public Health Director or State Public Health Officer issues an order stating that the some or all requirements in this rule are no longer necessary to control COVID-19.”
Oregon officials have long floated making mask rules a more “permanent” fixture in the state, and they made it a reality — at least for school settings.
“Children are required to attend school, which is a congregate setting where COVID-19 can spread easily if precautions are not taken,” the OHA’s rule reads, identifying 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 to be vaccinated, and those with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, as well as to minimize the disruption of student education in schools because of exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, requiring universal use of masks or face coverings in schools is necessary.
“The requirements in this rule remain in effect unless the State Public Health Director or State Public Health Officer issues an order stating that the some or all requirements in this rule are no longer necessary to control COVID-19,” the rule continues, essentially making masking in schools permanent and wholly dependent on the whims of officials.
Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners resilience manager Kati Moseley penned a letter on January 28 addressed to “Superintendents, Private School Leaders, Charter School Leaders, School Nurses, Reopening Advisors,” informing them of the formerly “temporary” rule’s new “permanent” status.
“Temporary rules expire, permanent rules are repealed. OHA has stated they 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 as vaccination and universal and correct use of face coverings are among the strongest mitigation tools available to protect in-person instruction.”
Moseley emphasized 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 after the start of the pandemic. On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the end of mask mandates for children in schools come March, and Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) made a similar announcement, following the lead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who largely led the way in banning mandatory mask mandates in schools.