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Oregon Health Authority confirms first presumptive case of virus; patient works at Forest Hills Elementary

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon's first case of coronavirus is an employee at Forest Hills Elementary School. They are currently being treated at a Hillsboro hospital.

Oregon's first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was found in a patient with Lake Oswego ties, the Oregon Health Authority announced Friday night, Feb. 28.

The person is a resident of Washington County and an employee at Forest Hills Elementary in Lake Oswego, according to OHA.

"Public health officials will investigate potential exposures (at Forest Hills) and contact employees and families of children to let them know next steps," OHA said in a news release.

Forest Hills will be closed through Wednesday, March 4, according to the school district. Additionally, activities at all LOSD schools were canceled for the weekend.

"The school (Forest Hills) will be cleaned deeply. All activities at the school are canceled through Wednesday," said LOSD Director of Communications Mary Kay Larson in a statement. "We are working closely with the public health authorities to monitor and evaluate the situation. We will notify you when we have more information."

The positive test result is preliminary, and the school district said it is still awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control.

Sunday evening a second person tested positive for COVID-19 in Oregon. The second presumptive case of the coronavirus is a Washington County resident who lived with the initial case announced Friday, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Then on Monday, Oregon health officials identified a third presumptive positive case of COVID-19 among state residents. The third case is an adult Oregon resident from Umatilla County who is hospitalized in Walla Walla, Washington. The third case is not linked to travel to a part of the world with known cases of COVID-19. It is considered a case of community transmission.

According to West Linn-Wilsonville School District Superintendent Kathy Ludwig, the district is "in daily communication with pubic health officials to ensure we are taking all necessary precautions. In alignment with current recommendations from public health officials, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District will not be closing any schools or facilities at this time.

Late Friday night, LOSD Superintendent Lora de la Cruz issued a statement addressed to students, staff and families.

"We understand that this news is worrisome to everyone," de la Cruz said. "As of now, public health officials don't know how this individual acquired the disease, or whether or to whom it was spread. They are investigating to determine all the places where this individual had spent time when ill."

De La Cruz added that the employee is in a role at Forest Hills that "does not typically come into contact with students."

"At this point, it appears that this person likely only had close contact with a few individuals," she said. "They will be asked to stay home from work or school for two weeks, monitor themselves for symptoms, take their temperatures daily, and stay in regular contact with their health care providers and the local public health department."

And what's the definition of "close contact"?

"Close contact does not mean when walking by someone in a hallway or a stairwell, or saying hello to someone on a sidewalk," de la Cruz said. "Rather, it requires contact with another person within about six feet, making it easier to pass respiratory droplets that are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. That typically happens while caring for, living with, visiting or sharing a space with another person, such as in a small office or a doctor's office waiting room."

According to OHA, the patient began experiencing symptoms Feb. 19 and a sample was collected Feb. 28. The patient is isolated and under care at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro.

In a news release, OHA said the patient did not have a history of travel to a country where the virus was present and wasn't believed to have come in contact with a confirmed case.

"As such, public health officials are considering it a likely community-transmitted case, meaning that the origin of the infection is unknown," the OHA release stated.

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.

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