Oregon grade-school closes for ‘deep cleaning’ after employee’s presumptive positive for coronavirus

In an apparent case of community transmission, an elementary school employee in Oregon was announced to be the state’s first presumptive case of novel coronavirus in the state. In addition, a second confirmed case of the virus in California was announced.

The Governor of Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Lake Oswego School District confirmed the chilling news of the school employee’s illness Friday evening. The person is in isolation and receiving care in Hillsboro at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center.

According to Fox 12 in Oregon, symptoms for the person began Feb. 19. The female patient did not recently travel to a country where COVID-19 is circulating, nor was she in close contact with others known to have the virus, so her illness is being considered “community transmitted.”

The case is at this point being called “presumptive” until the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirms a positive test result.

Fox 12 reported:

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the lead health officer for Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, said this person has spent time at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego. The Lake Oswego School District confirmed the person is an employee at that school.

The OHA said this person may have exposed students and staff.

As a result of that alarming news, the school district has closed the school with 25 teachers and 430 students through Wednesday for deep cleaning. Health officials are also contacting school employees and students’ families to advise them of their potential exposure to COVID-19 and the next steps that will include observation for developing symptoms.

A former student at Forest Hills Elementary and a current nearby resident, Sam Sewright, told Fox 12: “I was honestly both alarmed and surprised. I mean, you hear things like that on the news, but you don’t expect it to just plop right down essentially on your doorstep. I live like five blocks away on 8th street,” he said.

“I take my dog up here,” Sewright said. “A lot of kids running around, just vulnerable immune systems and stuff like that.”

This Oregon case came to light two days after California’s first case of the virus with unknown origins was confirmed in the northern part of the state and the same day that the second California case was confirmed in a person who is 65 years old. Neither of those patients had traveled to high-risk countries outside of the U.S.

The first California case involves a woman who had been hospitalized for days before she was tested for COVID-19, as she had not met the CDC criteria for testing at that point, due to not having the travel history. According to the New York Post, she is in serious condition and on a breathing tube.

An epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Jennifer Nuzzo, told The Washington Post that the virus is apparently starting to spread through California.

“I think there’s a strong possibility that there’s local transmission going in California,” she said. “In other words, the virus is spreading within California, and I think there’s a possibility other states are in the same boat. They just haven’t recognized that yet.”

Beyond the confirmed cases, California is monitoring 8,400 people for suspected coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Thursday press conference.

If the Oregon case is confirmed by the CDC, it will be the 16th in the United States in addition to 47 cases in those who have repatriated to the U.S. from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the CDC website. Oregon would be the 7th state with confirmed cases.



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