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The Lake Oswego School District held a virtual information session Thursday to answer questions and concerns after a recent COVID exposure incident.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Lake Oswego School District welcomed students back to in-person classes about two weeks ago, and several COVID-19 cases have been reported since then. On Thursday evening, over 200 community members assembled over Zoom for an information session on "quarantining and other exposure protocols" hosted by the Lake Oswego School District.

District Nurse Ann Nelson and school district representatives discussed COVID protocols, with focus on what happens in the event of a positive case in a school setting.

Less than two weeks into the school year, these protocols had already come into play several times.

Hallinan Elementary exposure

Four days prior, on Monday, the families of 47 Hallinan Elementary School attendees were notified that their child may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 on a school bus.

"We will keep you updated on any new information that impacts the health and safety of our school community, while also meeting the requirements to honor everyone's right to privacy. We appreciate your partnership in respecting everyone's right to privacy and

being kind to all, the Hallinan way," said Principal Melissa Griffiths in a letter to families.

The person who tested positive for COVID-19 will not be identified for privacy but was last at the school Sept. 1 and 2, according to the district. The 47 exposed are quarantining, and to the district's knowledge there have been no positive cases that stemmed from the bus incident.

"We credit that to masks, vaccinations and the swift response of isolation and quarantining," said Mary Kay Larson, communications director for Lake Oswego School District.

No close contacts have been identified on campus. The only close contacts were identified on the bus, as students were not six feet in distance from the infected person.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, if someone is within six feet of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more over 24 hours, they are considered a "close contact" and must be quarantined.

There are three exceptions to mandatory isolation: if the exposed individual is vaccinated, if the person has had COVID-19 in the last 90 days or if the contact is someone is in a classroom setting —as according to the Oregon Health Authority's guidance, someone who is wearing a well-fitted mask and three feet away from an infected person is not considered a "close contact."

In the aftermath of an exposure on school transportation, bus video surveillance is watched to pinpoint exactly who was within six feet of the infected person. Larson said the reason the number is so high in Hallinan's case is that in the two days the positive-tested person rode the bus, different people were sitting next to each other on the route.

The district will now take logs and have seating assignments on transportation to minimize risk going forward.

Out of the 12 schools in the district (including Harmony Academy), there are nine active cases as of Friday morning, according to the LOSD website. Three of these are at Hallinan Elementary, one being the individual who exposed the school bus while the other two are unrelated to each other and the bus exposure.

Protocols moving forward

On Thursday, participants were invited to ask any questions they had about protocols or next steps for the school district.

Many inquired about taking masks off during lunch and the risk associated with that. The district assured participants that safety measures are in place, as students currently eat lunch outside and are spaced six feet apart. The district also invested in event tents for outdoor lunch seating as the rainy season approaches.

Other attendees raised concerns about the scenario when an entire class is infected. Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Jennifer Schiele said if this were to happen, the class would be moved to virtual learning.

The number of cases that would prompt a classroom or school to be closed due to an outbreak is still being determined.

"We must recognize, though, that there is COVID in our community. We anticipate that there will be people who are diagnosed with COVID and they will come to our school," Larson said Thursday evening. "The whole point of these protocols is to make sure that we minimize the risk of spread and exposure in schools."

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