Oregon’s First Presumed Case of Novel Coronavirus Is Employee at an Lake Oswego Elementary School, Officials Say

Oregon Health Authority has confirmed the state’s first, presumptive case of the sometimes-deadly disease known as novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in an Oregon resident, public health officials announced today.

The case, a resident of Washington County, experienced symptoms of COVID-19 beginning Feb. 19 and a sample was collected from the individual today. The sample was sent to the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory in Hillsboro, which used a new COVID-19 test kit it received Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lab began tested the sample today—only hours after it verified the new CDC test kit.

Officials say the individual was an employee at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego, which was later confirmed by the superintendent and other staff with the Canby School District. The elementary school will be closed till March 4 to allow public health officials to complete their investigation, including contacting employees there and family of children to inform them of their exposure and let them know next steps.

“Our first concern is for this individual, to make sure they’re being cared for and is able to recover,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “Our next priority is finding out who this individual had contact with and make sure they know about their risks, and to let them know how they can get care if they need it. We said this was a fast-moving situation, and we’ve proved that to be true.”

The case was not a person under monitoring or a person under investigation. The individual had neither a history of travel to a country where the virus was circulating, nor is believed to have had a close contact with another confirmed case—the two most common sources of exposure. As such, public health officials are considering it a likely community-transmitted case, meaning that the origin of the infection is unknown.

The individual has been isolated and is being cared for at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro.

OHA epidemiologists are working closely with public health investigators at Washington County Department of Health and Human Services to identify close contacts of the case.

“We are awaiting confirmation of the test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but at this time we are considering this a presumptive case,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, MSed. “The person in now appropriate isolation and appropriate care.”

Coronavirus is most dangerous for seniors and those with underlying medical conditions. The vast majority of cases are mild. The virus is thought to be spread from person to person when in close contact, and officials recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, and to maintain at least three feet of distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

The state’s announcement comes amid growing numbers of cases around the world and in the United States. More than 80,000 people have been infected worldwide and about 3,000 have died – most of them in China, where the epidemic started.

In Canby, concerns over the outbreak caused Baker Prairie Middle School officials to cancel a planned trip to South Korea, the first time such a trip had been canceled since the program started 12 years earlier.

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