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State officials say Rex Putnam High School senior Duncan Forman, 17, died of unrelated cause

Rex Putnam High School senior Duncan FormanNorth Clackamas School District officials are assuring parents that the sudden and unexpected death of a 17-year-old student this month had nothing to do with coronavirus.

Clackamas County Health officials have told district officials that COVID-19 was not a factor in Rex Putnam High School senior Duncan Forman's March 2 death, said Principal Ryan Richardson. According to an obituary published by Dignity Memorial, the family reported that Forman died of sepsis.

Although sepsis and coronavirus occasionally are diagnosed in conjunction, the Global Sepsis Alliance said the there is only a link between the two in a small percentage of cases. At least 11 million people die annually from sepsis, which arises when the body's response to an infection injures itself, sometimes leading to multi-organ failure and death.

"Duncan was an excellent student - excelling in all his classes," Richardson wrote to parents. "He took a challenging course of study and served as an elementary mentor. Duncan also attended Alder Creek Middle School and View Acres Elementary. The grief of losing a student is challenging for each of us. The District's Crisis Response Team is at our school to support staff and students."

As for the potential of closing schools due to coronavirus, school officials say they are in daily communication with county and state health authorities who are providing guidance and resources. County officials are responding to questions about potential school closures by referring people to the Oregon Health Authority guidelines.

State officials are recommending against closing schools and campuses where no cases of COVID-19 are present. Schools, colleges and universities are being asked to consider alternatives before closing in the event that a COVID-19 case is detected among students or staff.

Health officials are asking educational administrators to promote strategies like hand washing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 within a school community and protect students from lost instructional time. State guidelines say that academic instruction is vital to student well-being at schools, which also provide many students their only ready access to health care and food.

"I appreciate the strong partnership and guidance from the Oregon Health Authority as Oregon rallies in response to the COVID-19 challenge," said Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill. "Keeping schools open is the best option for our state and, most importantly, for our students. Our safety efforts should focus on practicing good hygiene, staying home when we are not feeling well, and cleaning surfaces in our schools. We can all play a part with these simple steps to protect ourselves and our friends, classmates and community."


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