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Forest Hills Elementary reopened today, and as of Wednesday no new cases were reported in Lake Oswego

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - It was business as usual at all Lake Oswego schools, save for Forest Hills Elementary, this week. Here, Hallinan Elementary students rush into school on Wednesday morning.Yes, COVID-19 has arrived in Oregon.

No, you should not panic.

That was the message from school, City and health officials alike after Oregon's first presumptive case of COVID-19 — a disease caused by the novel coronavirus — was found in a Lake Oswego School District employee who lives in Washington County. The positive test result announced by the Oregon Health Authority Friday, Feb. 28, was preliminary and as of Wednesday the Lake Oswego School District was still awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control.

The patient was being treated at Kaiser Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro when the Feb. 28 announcement was made.

In the days following the initial announcement, two more presumptive cases were announced: one in a second Washington County resident who had close contact with the first case, and another in eastern Oregon's Umatilla County.

The second Washingon County resident did not require medical attention and was isolated at home. The third patient was being treated at a hospital in Walla Walla, Washington.

All three cases are considered to be "community transmissions," meaning they are not linked to travel in a part of the world with known cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan City, China. It's referred to as "novel" because it is just the latest in a large family of viruses that are commonly found in animals like camels, cattle, cats and bats, according to CDC. In rare cases, these viruses infect people and spread — as was seen in the past with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

As of now, CDC says "the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood." Some cases are mild and others have resulted in death. Around 3,000 deaths have been associated with the virus worldwide; last Saturday, the first U.S. death was reported in Washington. A CDC report said preliminary data showed that older adults and people with either underling health conditions or compromised immune systems were more at risk for severe illness as a result of the virus.

Stay healthy

OHA officials continue to recommend people in Oregon take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza:

— Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.

— Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

— Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched.

— Take care of your health overall. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient.

— Consult the CDC's travel website for any advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the United States.

At a press conference in Lake Oswego Saturday, Dr. Sarah Present, deputy tri-county public health officer for Clackamas County, said the virus does not appear to spread as quickly as something like measles.

However, the CDC still noted that it "seems to be spreading easily and sustainably," and tens of thousands have been infected across the world.

Local responses

In Lake Oswego, the school district closed Forest Hills through Wednesday, March 4, to allow for deep cleaning and the completion of a suggested 14-day waiting period since the virus was last thought to be at the school.

At the press conference, 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 were asked to stay home from school or work for two weeks to monitor their symptoms.

All other district schools were open as usual this week, and activities resumed after being cancelled over the weekend.

In Hillsboro, multiple staff members at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center were asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with the patient being treated at the hospital for COVID-19.

Debbie Karman, spokeswoman for the hospital, said dozens of staff were asked to self-isolate and not return to work. Furloughed staff are being paid, Karman said.

In Umatilla County, it was announced that several people may have been in close contact with the patient during a Saturday, Feb. 29, youth basketball game at Weston Middle School. Authorities said spectators in the gym with the person would be considered "low-risk" exposures. Athena-Weston School District closed the gym for deep cleaning.

More testing being done

Tests for seven patients came back negative Monday, and as of Tuesday 18 patients were still awaiting test results. 115 people remained "under monitoring," meaning they didn't have symptoms but may have been exposed to the virus through close contact or travel to China.

Additionally, at press time Wednesday two of the three cases in Oregon still needed to be confirmed with a second round of test results from the CDC.

County declares 'precautionary' state of emergency

Early on Monday, March 2, Clackamas County Board of Commissioners declared a precautionary state of emergency in response to the coronavirus in order to be as prepared as possible.

However, they cautioned that this is not a public health emergency, but a statement allowing the county to seek additional resources from the state. It authorizes the county to streamline resources and staffing and create emergency policies and protocols, as well as gives the county the ability to recoup financial costs associated with the emergency response.

The declaration gives county officials the power to commit to mutual aid agreements, redirect funds for emergency use and order other measures that are found to be instantly necessary to protect life and property.

Reporters Asia Alvarez Zeller, Carol Rosen and Max Egener contributed to this story.


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