Our COVID Safety Agreements: Reminders and Highlights (1/1/22)

Dear Educator,

Over winter break, the spread of COVID-19 in our community has increased drastically. While there is reason to hope that the omicron variant is milder than previous strains, and that vaccinated individuals remain at much lower risk of severe illness if infected, the Oregon Health Authority has predicted that Oregon hospitals will be overwhelmed in the coming month. 

Together we have fought for some of the strongest safety agreements in the country, and it is more important than ever that we make sure they are followed, to keep students, school staff, and our community as safe as possible.

Of course, if you are feeling sick, STAY HOME and use Absence Management to request a guest teacher, as soon as you know you will be gone.  NBC reported that a cough, congestion, runny nose, and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the omicron variant.  

If you are experiencing any COVID symptoms or if you have had direct contact with someone who has COVID, get tested. The CDC and OHA have updated their recommendation that fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 be tested 5-7 days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Although the CDC recently shortened the recommended period for isolation to 5 days after a positive test for the general population, the Oregon Health Authority is still recommending a 10-day isolation or quarantine period for schools

Please review our COVID-19 Safety agreements, as well as the guidance from ODE. Below are some highlights.

Our LOA on COVID-19 Safety (8/2021) states that:

  • Staff and students exposed* to COVID-19 must be excluded. (1) (*The OHA currently defines “exposed” as people who are not fully vaccinated)
  • KN-95 must be provided to any educator who requests them. “Subject to availability” is in case there is a supply shortage. (3)
  • When educators need to self-isolate due to being COVID-positive, they will not lose pay. (4)

Per our MOA Vaccine Mandate Effects between the Coalition of Unions and Portland Public Schools  you may use “quarantine leave” if any of the following are true:

  • you are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; 
  • you been advised by a public health official to self-quarantine or isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; 
  • you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have been advised by a licensed health care provider to get tested for COVID-19 and refrain from working within a reasonable timeframe;
  • you are diagnosed with COVID-19. (10 a and b)
  • You may also use your quarantine leave for up to 3 days of missed work due to side effects of receiving a booster shot (Vaccine Mandate MOA, 8).

Ready Schools, Safe Learners (RSSL) and Planning for COVID-19 Scenarios in Schools (both updated 12/13/2021) give the following guidance:

  • People who have COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days after their symptoms started (or, if they have no symptoms, for 10 days after the test date) and 24 hours after any fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medicine (COVID-19 Sceneries, p 4)
  • Any person who is not fully vaccinated and who has been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 should quarantine at home. (COVID-19 Sceneries, p 4)
  • ODE says that close contacts who have been fully immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine are not required to quarantine. Fully immunized close contacts should still monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 during the 14 days after exposure, and if symptoms develop they should isolate and seek testing. (COVID-19 Sceneries, p 5)
  • All individuals 5 years of age and older are required to wear a face covering while indoors in a K-12 school, during school hours, unless they have an accommodation for a medical need or disability. Schools cannot serve a student in-person if they or their family choose not to wear a face covering. (RSSL p 9)

We have asked district leaders for an update on their plans to address any potential staffing shortage, and to reinforce safety mitigation in the schools, including mask wearing, physical distancing, and solutions for lunch-time. We are currently awaiting a response.

Wishing you health and fortitude in the New Year,

Portland Association of Teachers