As students take part in summer school programs and activities, masking rules look different around the Portland area.
Gresham-Barlow School District recently reinstated a rule for masks, in accordance with recommendations by the CDC for Multnomah County. Centennial School District is also requiring masks, for now at least. Gresham-Barlow School District's mask requirement for summer school activities went into effect July 5.
Conversely, students in Portland Public Schools and North Clackamas School District have the option of wearing masks, but aren't required to.
Some districts like Gresham-Barlow tie their masking policy to CDC recommendations. As of Thursday, July 7, the CDC marked Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties as "high risk" and recommended wearing masks in public spaces. The CDC bases its community levels on the number of hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. The agency updates its risk levels and recommendations each Thursday evening, meaning school mask requirements could fluctuate.
Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations have climbed since spring. On April 15, Oregon reported 97 people were hospitalized with COVID and 19 were in ICU beds. By July 6, that number was 423 people hospitalized and 59 in the ICU.
The Oregon Health Authority reported Multnomah County's seven-day average of new COVID cases was 315 on July 7 and 268 cases per 100,000 people. Clackamas County saw a seven-day average of 134 cases and 220 per 100,000 people during the same timeframe. Washington County reported a seven-day average of 207 cases and 239 cases per 100,000 people. OHA cautioned the numbers are incomplete and likely show an undercount of actual cases, as many infections never get reported to OHA.
Oregon, California and Washington each lifted their indoor mask requirements on March 12, though masks are still required in some cases, like health care settings. Since the mandate lifted, many areas, including Multnomah County, saw COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise, prompting public agencies to recommend a return to indoor masking two months after the mandate lifted.
"With COVID cases, emergency department and urgent care diagnoses all increasing in Multnomah County along with hospitalizations and outbreaks, Public Health strongly urges people to wear masks indoors until cases and hospitalizations drop back down," Multnomah County health officials stated on May 11.
Courtney Vaughn is a reporter for The Portland can be reached at [email protected]. This article is used with permission of the Pamplin Media Group. Read more from Oregon’s largest source of independent local news at pamplinmedia.com.