Hillsboro School District says middle-schooler has COVID-19
A student in the Hillsboro School District has tested positive for COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, officials announced Sunday, March 8.
However, the school that the student attends will not be closing as a result of the diagnosis, the school district said.
The student who tested positive Sunday for COVID-19 attends South Meadows Middle School. Details on the student's identity, including grade level, were not released.
Dr. Christina Baumann, public health officer for Washington County, said the county is recommending that the school stay open, and Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott encouraged families to continue to send their children to school as normal.
"Based on the advice of the health professionals, we will not be closing the school," Scott said at a press conference at about 6 p.m. Sunday.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, the Oregon Health Authority said it was issuing new guidance for schools, colleges and universities where cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed.
"At this time, the guidance recommends against closing schools and campuses where no cases of COVID-19 are present," the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement. "It also recommends that schools, colleges and universities consider all alternatives before closing a school, college or university in the event that a COVID-19 case is detected among students or staff."
Scott said the Hillsboro School District is doing all it can to keep students and staff safe.
"We encourage our students to come to school, because we believe that every day matters," Scott said. "Of course ... parents will make their own decisions about whether they send their kids to school or not."
Baumann said the infected student attended school for one day while experiencing "very mild" symptoms before testing positive for COVID-19.
The student is self-isolating and has not been hospitalized.
Baumann noted that virologists are still trying to fully understand COVID-19, which was first diagnosed in humans in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. She said the disease has been observed to hit the elderly population and people with underlying health conditions harder than younger people.
"We have seen that children tend to have milder illness and are less likely to have severe illness," Baumann said.
She added, "We want to support the school in their efforts to keep kids healthy, and as such, the primary message that we want to get across to our school community and to our community more broadly is that if you have any symptoms of infectious illness, do not go to school. ... Infections spread when sick people mix with well people, and everyone can do their part to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our communities and schools."
There are now 14 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, with seven more positive tests announced Sunday. Baumann and other public health experts say the real number of active infections likely is much higher, because testing has been limited and not everyone with COVID-19 may realize they are ill. Most cases of the viral disease are mild.
"Anyone can get this virus, and we know that we have had instances of community spread," Baumann said.
Scott said the Hillsboro School District has been doing "enhanced cleaning" for the past week, and South Meadows Middle School is undergoing deep cleaning Sunday.
Baumann said the disease can spread at health care facilities.
Most of the 18 deaths linked to COVID-19 in neighboring Washington this month were among residents at a Seattle-area nursing home. Dozens of staff members at that facility have also been sickened.
"What our advice to the general public is if you would not otherwise seek medical care for the symptoms that you have, we urge you to stay at home and recover at home," Baumann said. "Testing will not necessarily change the outcome. There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 right now."
Asked how many cases she estimates are in Washington County right now, Baumann declined to offer a guess.
Testing for the novel coronavirus in the United States has been limited, with many states reporting shortages of test kits approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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