Lake Oswego School District officials held a press conference Saturday, Feb. 29, to share information about the presumptive case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lake Oswego.
The person infected is a district employee at Forest Hills Elementary School. Superintendent Lora de la Cruz said the employee's role does not entail close contact with students. He likely only had close contact with a few individuals, and those individuals have been asked to stay home from school or work for two weeks to monitor their symptoms.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) restricts the district from releasing any identifiable information about the individual.
"Although we were advised that we do not have to close Forest Hills, we elected to close it out of an abundance of caution and care for the children and adults in our schools and community," de la Cruz said.
Public health officials say there is no need, at this time, to close other schools in the district.
Still, de la Cruz said, "We ask that if any staff, students or community members are feeling ill, that you remain at home."
Forest Hills will be closed through March 4. Given Feb. 19 was the last time the employee was at the school, the closure allows adequate time for industrial cleaning and an investigation by the Oregon Health Authority. It also marks 14 days since the virus was suspected to be at the school, which is the recommended waiting period after exposure to the virus.
"At this time we believe it will be safe to return to Forest Hills after March 4," de la Cruz said.
An industrial cleaning company, Serve Pro, has been at Forest Hills since Saturday morning to evaluate the building before beginning deep cleaning.
De la Cruz said the district is taking precautionary steps to disinfect all schools and school buses by Monday, March 2, before the start of school.
"The very best thing we can all do right now is to remain calm, and pay close attention to the advice and guidance of our public health officials," de la Cruz said.
Dr. Sarah Present, deputy tri-county public health officer for Clackamas County, informed the public about the known facts of the novel coronavirus.
"I'm a family doctor. I'm also a mother of a child in elementary school. And I understand how scary this situation can be. I want this whole community to know that your concerns are valid," she said.
She shared that though a lot about this coronavirus is still unknown, they do know that it is likely not as infectious as something like measles.
"The temporary closure of Forest Hills elementary does not mean that everyone in the community has had significant exposure or is at high risk of getting this disease. The reality is that this virus is new, and we're still determining the levels of risks," Present said.
"At this time in our community, if you do have a respiratory illness it is still much more likely to be a common cold or influenza which is still circulating than it is to be the COVID-19 disease," she added.
All scheduled activities held at LOSD facilities planned for this weekend have been canceled. All schools except for Forest Hills are slated to resume class Monday.
View the full press conference here.
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