A decline in COVID-19 cases in Oregon may mean good news for reopening Sisters schools.

The Oregon Health Authority reported an update to the media on Thursday, August 27 regarding the latest metrics related to the reopening of schools in Oregon. OHA Director Patrick Allen led the teleconference with input offered also by Dr. Dean Sidelinger, an Oregon State Health Officer. 

Much of the news indicated that cases of COVID-19 are slowing in most of the state, including in Deschutes County.

The measurement most important to schools reopening is the number of cases per 100,000 people. A ratio of 30 cases per 100,000 allows grades K-3 students to be considered for in-person school, while the standards for grades 4-12 is 10 per 100,000. 

More specifically, according to the Oregon Department of Education website, the metrics state that for schools to reopen the case rate for the county where the school is located must hold over a seven-day span for three consecutive weeks. The test positivity rate in the county also needs to be five percent or lower over a seven-day span for three weeks in a row.

As of August 16, Deschutes County had dropped to 17 cases per 100,000, down from 54 a month earlier. 

A total of 13 counties have dropped under the “magic number” of 10 per 100,000. Crook County, at 9 per 100,000, is the only county in the region under that number, but many of the rural counties of Eastern Oregon are well below the reopening standard. 

Jefferson County numbers dropped significantly, but remain among the highest in Oregon at 130 per 100,000. Complete statistics for Oregon are available on the Oregon Health Authority website and are consistently updated.

In Sisters, grades K-12 are scheduled to begin September 8 under Comprehensive Distance Learning. If the metrics continue to improve and remain sustained at acceptable levels required for reopening, K-3 students could be back in school buildings by September 28 and grades 4-12 by October 19.

The Sisters School District website (www.ssd6.org) has more detailed information on its front page under “COVID-19 Menu.”

Allen and Sidelinger both encouraged Oregonians to keep practicing mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and, in particular, urged people to keep Labor Day celebrations close to home and in small groups, citing the surges in COVID-19 cases following Memorial Day and Fourth of July.