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Barlow High and North Gresham and Parklane elementary schools report staff, student cases.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Five cases of COVID have been reported in three East County schools as students begin to return to in-person learning and sports this spring.

Three East County schools have reported five cases of COVID-19, according to the most recent COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak Report issued by the Oregon Health Authority.

In the Gresham-Barlow School District, two staff members at North Gresham Elementary School tested positive and one student had the COVID-19 virus at Barlow High School as of March 26.

Two students at Parklane Elementary School in the Centennial School District were infected with the virus, with the most recent onset listed as March 31.

The Gresham-Barlow School District declined to provide any information on the two staff members at North Gresham or the student at Barlow and referred questions to the Multnomah County Public Health Department.

Parklane was notified of the positive tests on Friday, April 2, and the students in those class groups, called cohorts, were asked to stay home and quarantine for 10 days.

"As part of a general response to keep everyone in the cohort safe and to protect the health of our community, we are temporarily transitioning the affected cohorts to Comprehensive Distance Learning," Parklane Principal Jorge Meza said in a letter to Parklane families on April 3.

Other students in the school who did not have contact with the two infected students were not quarantined and their part-time, in-person classes continued. Centennial increased its cleaning protocols at Parklane.

In commenting on school cases, Kate Yeiser, spokesperson for the Multnomah County Public Health Department said in an email: "Multnomah County Public Health and school districts communicate directly with individuals who may have been in close contact with an individual who has COVID-19. The county cannot provide details that may identify any individual. Nor does the county release information on cohorts or the nature of the exposure unless there is risk to the public that cannot be mitigated through more targeted communications,"

If a COVID-19 case occurs, students in the class section, or cohort, move back to remote learning. Vaccinated staff members do not have to quarantine, the health department said.

The recent infections occurred as students were returning to school in greater numbers for part-time in-person learning as part of a hybrid model. Gresham-Barlow and Centennial elementary students began returning to campus April 1 and Reynolds on April 8. Students are being added by grade level over the upcoming weeks with high school students the last to reenter classrooms. High school sports teams have been practicing and playing games for several weeks.

Only about one-half to one-third of students are attending in-person school at a time due to guidelines about social distancing and other rules. Schools are distancing desks and keeping students separated while they walk in halls. Masks are required. Air quality has been improved and extra cleaning protocols put in place, officials said.

After a fairly steady drop in COVID-19 cases over the last few months, cases in Oregon, as around the country, are rising again. The spread of variants of the original virus are worrying experts, even as more and more people are getting vaccinated.

Gov. Kate Brown said at an April 2 press conference that a "fourth wave" of infections was hitting Oregon. "This virus is at our doorstep — our numbers are rising and we are back on alert."

On Tuesday, April 8, Multnomah County was raised from moderate to high risk for COVID-19 due to increasing case counts.

Cases per 100,000 residents went from 77.2 the week ending March 27 to 139.9 the week ending April 3, and test positivity rates more than doubled from 2.4% to 5.4%.

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