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Washington County resident is Oregon’s first presumed novel coronavirus case

Coronavirus news conference Patrick Allen, Gov. Brown, Jennifer Vines 2-28
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen, Gov. Kate Brown and Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines at Friday evening news conference on presumptive coronavirus case.

(Update: Washington County resident works at school in Clackamas County)

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority late Friday confirmed its first, presumptive case of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in a Washington County resident who works at a school in Lake Oswego, public health officials announced.

The person, whose gender and age was not released, experienced symptoms of COVID-19 beginning Feb. 19 and a sample was collected from the individual Friday.

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 tested the sample Friday, only hours after it verified the new CDC test kit.

“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 under investigation, officials said.

OHA said 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 said they 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.

The person is employed at a school in Clackamas County, Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego, and may have exposed students and staff there. Public health officials will investigate potential exposures there and contact employees and families of children to let them know next steps.

The Lake Oswego School District announced the closure of Forest Hills Elementary School through Wednesday for deep cleaning following the positive test for COVID-19.

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.”

Two other people in Oregon have tested negative for the novel coronavirus, while one result is pending, officials said on the OHA page for COVID-19

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 CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the US.

For more information:

Earlier story:

Oregon ramped up efforts to combat a potential outbreak of coronavirus, and state health officials said possible challenges include delays in getting results of testing for the virus, closing schools, businesses and events, and sustained shortages of medical supplies.

At a hearing in the state Capitol, top health officials heard concerns from lawmakers, and raised some themselves. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in Oregon, though officials are preparing for response to the new virus that causes the disease called COVID-19. Cases have emerged in California to the south and Washington state to the north.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said all test samples from Oregon must be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“That delay is not terribly significant because the number of tests being performed is pretty low,” Allen said. “If that starts to increase, that gives people a bigger problem.”

Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, a Democrat from Portland and member of the committee, faulted Republicans, who this week began boycotting the Legislature over a climate change bill, for being absent. One of the bills that have stalled because of the walkout would have better protected immigrants awaiting resolution on their immigration status.

“I do really fear that people who are worried about that will not be coming and seek the help they need when they start feeling sick, and they won’t show up and get monitored, get tested. And this can be really dangerous,” she said.

Gov. Kate Brown convened a response team “to ensure we are taking every precaution necessary” and is tasked with coordinating state and local agencies and health authorities.

“The purpose of the Coronavirus Response Team is to ensure we are taking every precaution necessary,” Brown said.

As of this week, 76 people in Oregon were being monitored. Another 178 have completed monitoring without developing symptoms, according to the OHA website. Another two people had developed symptoms of the virus, were monitored, and turned out not to have it.

The CDC said two more Americans tested positive for the virus out of the group of quarantined passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, bringing the national total to 62.

The governor’s office said that as with earthquakes and other natural disasters, families should have enough food, water, prescription medications, pet food, sanitation supplies and anything else they would need to shelter in place for an extended period of time if it becomes necessary.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild disease. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

It has infected 83,000 people globally and caused more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.


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