Although both federal and state officials have said fully vaccinated people needn’t wear masks or socially distance in most situations, Oregon schools will continue to require students, staff and visitors to follow those guidelines for the few remaining weeks in the school year.
On Thursday, May 13, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Later in the day, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the state would follow the CDC’s lead.
However, mask and social distancing rules will remain in effect for schools for the rest of the school year, Brown said.
The Baker School District will continue to follow the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidelines from the Oregon Department of Education, said Lindsey McDowell, the district’s public information and communications coordinator.
McDowell noted that both the CDC and Brown’s announcements involved fully vaccinated people, and most students haven’t been eligible to be vaccinated.
"Widespread vaccination against COVID-19 really is the key to ending the current pandemic, and we are so fortunate to have a local Health Department that continues to work tirelessly to provide residents of Baker County with ongoing opportunities for vaccination," said Mark Witty, Baker School District superintendent. "It is within our control to get back to a more normal life in both schools and the larger community by taking advantage of these opportunities for vaccination."
People ages 16 and 17 became eligible on April 19, and eligibility was extended just this week to those ages 12 to 15.
As of Friday, May 14, just 89 Baker County residents ages 16 to 19 were partially or fully vaccinated — and that includes some people who aren’t students.
McDowell said the Baker School District isn’t requiring employees to divulge whether they’ve been vaccinated, so district officials don’t know how many workers are inoculated.
Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, said parents of children ages 12 to 15 who want to schedule a vaccination for their child should call 541-523-8211 or go to the county’s website, www.bakercountycovid19.com.
She said the Health Department will schedule appointments based on demand. Staten said that because the Pfizer vaccine, the only one approved for ages 12 to 17, must be stored at extremely low temperatures, the county has to request doses from Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande, which has freezers capable of storing the vaccine.