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Crook County schools are in the 'red zone' after 13 cases were reported last week

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County schools will have to return grades 4-12 to online education if new local COVID cases are higher than seven this week.

Crook County Schools entered the red zone for metrics on COVID-19 cases on a weekly basis.

The Oregon Health Authority reported eight new COVID-19 cases in Crook County as of Friday, Oct. 16. Saturday, Oct. 17, Crook County gained five more, pushing the total to 13. The state metrics require that local cases remain at seven or less per week for two weeks in a row.

According to Jason Carr, Communications and Community Engagement Specialist for Crook County School District, if the numbers remain at seven or less this week, grades 4-12 will still be able to remain in classrooms. Because numbers are always one week behind, they will check numbers again on Monday, Oct. 26. If they remain at eight or above, Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson will announce plans to go back to online learning. That would begin one week later, on Nov. 2.

Pioneer High school and Steins Pillar fall under the small school exception—since they are 250 students or less. Paulina School and Brothers fall under the rural school's exception, which means they will remain in-person instruction regardless of the outcomes of the metrics for the remaining portion of the district. Carr indicated that they have a different set of metrics.

The number of cases so far this week have pushed the school district into the red zone. If the county sees another week of case counts at eight or above, the school district will be forced by the state to move grades 4-12 back to Comprehensive Distance Learning. 

The district reported that none of the new cases are connected to any of the CCSD schools, and students attending in-person will continue with their normal schedule next week. The Crook County Health Department says that COVID-19 remains active in the community and reminds residents to wear masks and social distance to help reduce the spread of the virus. The district will continue to keep families updated with the latest information.

According to Vicki Ryan, emergency preparedness coordinator and Crook County public information officer for Crook County Health Department, there were 13 cases of positive and presumptive combined, as of Saturday, Oct. 17 at 5 p.m.

"Saturday, we had five, which was quite a jump for us. However, it is all associated with known cases, so there is no community spread," said Ryan.

Community spread is defined as when they cannot locate the source. She indicated that they have been able to identify where all the current cases started.

"They are all associated with other cases that we have in the county. There are no massive outbreaks or anything like that at this point," concluded Ryan.

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