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Employee worked as building engineer at Forest Hills Elementary, but he was placed in medical coma last month, sources say.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon's first case of coronavirus is an employee at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego. They are being treated at a Hillsboro hospital.A fundraising effort has been launched to support a Lake Oswego school employee sickened with COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus.

Local real estate agent Justin Harnish said the GoFundMe campaign already has raised nearly $16,000 in 17 hours, but more money will be needed to support the recovery of the sickened worker at Forest Hills Elementary School.

"Here we are hearing about it on national and international news, and all of the sudden it's in our backyard," said Harnish, who grew up in Lake Oswego and attended Forest Hills Elementary in his youth.

"I think the administration is doing all they can. Locally, we decided that we've got to do something for our staff member." Harnish added. "We want to show that we have their back."

About 90,000 people have caught COVID-19 worldwide since the disease first reared its head last year, and more than 3,000 have died. Closer to home, 10 deaths have been linked to COVID-19 in Washington state, while one death has been reported in California.

Children, as it turns out, may be less susceptible to the illness than might be expected. NBC News reports that just 2.5% of those in China diagnosed with the disease are children, and of those none have died and very few presented severe symptoms.

Other media sources have noted that children may be carrying the disease, even if they do not become visibly sick.

Employee's condition under wraps

As talk of COVID-19 spreads online, pinning down the facts of Oregon's first case has proved difficult.

But Christine Wynne, a Lake Oswegan and substitute teacher, said the employee who was sickened works as Forest Hills' building engineer.

"I think people over-react," she said. "It's very much reassuring that it was somebody with little contact" with the schoolchildren.

Two other people, both asking for anonymity, told the Tribune the same thing, noting that the day-time engineer previously had been diagnosed with what appeared to be pneumonia in February. The engineer had been placed in a medically induced coma.

One source described the engineer as a chatty and gregarious fellow, a family man who previously had worked as a teacher in Guatemala before moving to the United States.

Another member of the engineer's family has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is said to be recuperating under quarantine at home in the Reedville area of Washington County.

A building engineer typically performs some custodial duties, but also is tasked with ordering supplies and providing technical assistance. The Lake Oswego Review — sister publication of the Tribune — reports that Forest Hills has undergone an industrial-strength deep cleaning and was ready to reopen on Thursday, March 5.

In a statement, the Lake Oswego School District said it had "no new news to report on the condition of this individual," citing federal laws that keep medical records private, though the district continues to monitor the employee presumed to be infected.

"We want to reiterate our care and concern for all staff and students," said school district spokeswoman Mary Kay Larson. "We are passing along our community's thoughts and well wishes with the individual's family."

Harnish, the real estate agent, did not disclose any information about the employee, saying that maintaining privacy was paramount at this time.

Click here to donate to the medical fund for the Forest Hills employee.


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