Why PPS released the Mask Mandate

Last Monday, on March 14, the Mask Mandate for all Portland Public schools and buildings has been released for students and staff by PPS due to the Multnomah county’s “low” community level, the high number of both partially and fully vaccinated people in Oregon, and low number of people susceptible to COVID-19 in Oregon.

The reasons for this released mandate are described in the email by district superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero’s email that was sent out to families.

The superintendent says that the release of the mandate aligns with the Oregon Department of Education/Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Public health’s new guidelines. He also says that it aligns with the CDC’s new guidance and community tools called community levels.

The community levels tool is a tool made by the CDC to help communities decide which prevention steps to take based on the latest data in the county. There are three different states a county can be in: “low”, “medium”, or “high”. These levels are determined by hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of COVID cases in the community.

If you check the CDC’s website talking about community tools, which is here, you can see that they have deemed Multnomah County to be in the “low” category, meaning that the CDC only recommends that you stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 vaccines and if you show any symptoms, you should try to get tested as soon as you can.

According to the latest data from the Oregon Health and Science University, less than 14% of Oregonians are actually susceptible or vulnerable to COVID-19 being lethal to them. It’s also important to note that the vaccination rate in Oregon is high, with almost 70% of the Oregon population fully vaccinated. For reference, the average number of individuals vaccinated in the US is about 65.8%.

In addition to releasing this mask mandate, PPS will also continue to pause contact tracing and quarantining in schools because public health affirms that contact tracing and quarantine do not slow the speed of a virus such as omicron, which moves extremely quickly.