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School officials plan to begin testing students as they return to campus for in-person, online classes beginning Jan. 18.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A University of Portland staff member has tested positive for the new, more contagious U.K. strain of the novel corornavirus.A University of Portland staff member has been isolated after testing positive for the new United Kingdom variant of the novel coronavirus.

University officials said Saturday, Jan. 16, that the on-campus staff member was diagnosed with the new B.1.1.7 strain of COVID-19, which is more contagious than previous strains. The infected staff member has been in isolation for several days. Staff members and others who came into contact with the infected person have been in quarantine for nearly a week. Neither the infected staff member nor others in quarantine have developed COVID-19 symptoms.

The Oregon Health Authority was investigating how the person became infected with the new strain. Health authority officials said the person had no known travel history.

"The detection of the first case of this variant strain is a concern, and we have been monitoring movement of this strain," said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon health officer and state epidemiologist.

"Confirming this strain locally is distressing," said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. "Until we have enough vaccine, we must continue using face masks, distancing and limiting our social interactions."

The university began testing students Monday, Jan. 18, as they arrived on campus for spring term. The university is opening with a limited number of students and a hybrid of in-person and online classes.

"Our robust testing protocols caught this infection early and worked as they should have," said Michael Lewellen, university vice president for marketing and communications. "We remain confident in our COVID-19 planning and management strategies."

State officials said the new strain was detected in several states, including California.

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