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LOSD Hosts News Conference to Update Community on Response to Presumptive Case of Novel Coronavirus COVID-19

 

Feb. 29, 2020, Lake Oswego, OR – Lake Oswego School District (LOSD) held a news conference on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 12 p.m. PST to provide an update on the response to the presumptive case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The conference was lived streamed and can be viewed on losdschools.org/aboutlosd/schoolboard/meetings/availablearchives, or click on this link:: https://loswegok12.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=512

Following are the written statements from the two spokespeople at the news conference: Dr. Lora de la Cruz, Superintendent, Lake Oswego School District, and Dr. Sarah Present, MD, deputy tri-county health officer for Clackamas County.

Statement from Dr. Lora de la Cruz, Superintendent, Lake Oswego School District

Yesterday evening, I received a call from the Oregon Health Authority stating that it was investigating a presumptive case of novel coronavirus disease known as COVID-19, discovered in one of our staff members who works at Forest Hills Elementary. Before I continue, I want to say that we care deeply about this person’s health, and our thoughts are with him and his family.

I was notified minutes before the news release announcement and we immediately notified our staff, families and community about the presumptive case in LOSD. Although county health officials advised that we do not have to close Forest Hills, we elected to close it in an abundance of caution and care for the children and adults in our schools and community.

Following is our rationale for closing the school through, Wednesday, Mar. 4. February 19 was the last date on which the employee who became ill was in the school. It was discovered last night on February 28 that he has a presumptive case of novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. The timing of our decision to close Forest Hills until March 4 is intended to: 

  • Allow us to clean the school thoroughly,
  • Let local, state and federal public health professionals conduct their investigation,
  • Allow everyone to take a few days off to stay healthy, and
  • Allow the recommended waiting period of 14 days after exposure to run its full course. At this time, we believe that it will be safe to return to Forest Hills after March 4. 

Public health officials have assured us there is no need to close other schools in the district at this time, although this could be considered if Oregon Health Authority identifies more cases beyond Forest Hills.

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

In cooperation with Oregon Health Authority and local public health officals, we are actively monitoring students and staff absences and reports of illness.

We ask that if any staff, students and community members are feeling ill, that you remain at home.

 

We have cancelled all activities in all LOSD school facilities this weekend.  We expect to reopen all schools, except Forest Hills, on Monday, March 2.

We have brought in an industrial cleaning company this morning to evaluate Forest Hills so that deep cleaning can begin, using recommendations from Oregon Health Authority and the Center for Disease Control. Additionally, we are taking precautionary steps to clean and disinfect all schools and all buses by Monday before schools reopen.

From the information we have at this time, Forest Hills Elementary is the only school in the district that has had an exposure. Again, Oregon Health Authority has assured us there is no need to close other schools in the district at this time, although this could be considered if more cases arise beyond Forest Hills.

For those of you who are affected by the school’s closure, it’s recommended that you rest at home and spend time with your families over the next few days, and seek medical attention if you or someone in your family becomes symptomatic.

The LOSD Administrative team, the School Board and I have been working around the clock in consultation with Oregon Health Authority to closely monitor all aspects of the situation, as Oregon Health Authority continues the investigation of all potential others who may have come in contact with this staff member, and to communicate with our community. As a district, we are taking firm and decisive action, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.

The health and wellbeing of our students, staff and community are paramount, and will continue to drive our decision making. The very best thing we can all do right now is remain calm and pay close attention to the advice and guidance of our public health officials.

At this time, I am going to turn this over to Dr. Sara Present, who has been working closely with Oregon Health Authority and LOSD throughout this process. Thank you.

 

Statement from Dr. Sara Present, deputy tri-county officer for Clackamas County

 

First I want to acknowledge that this situation is scary. As a mother of a child in elementary school, I understand the concerns about protecting the health of our children and our school communities.

 

I first want to assure you that the temporary closure of Forest Hills does not mean that everyone in the community has had significant exposure or is at high risk of getting this disease. The reality is that this virus is new, and we are still determining these risks. Closing the school is done out of an abundance of caution and gives us time to further assess the situation while ensuring the safety of the community. The time frame is cautious and will be sufficient to ensure it is safe to resume normal activities when the school opens. We will let you know if this changes.

 

At this time, there is no indication that other schools in the district are at increased risk. There is no reason to limit your exposure to children or others in the school community due to the potential exposure, unless they are ill.  People who have had significant contact and are known to be at high risk of contracting illness are being contacted directly.

 

As we learn more about this disease, we will know more about how infectious it is. There are some diseases, like measles, that are very infectious and can spread by short time in the same room as someone with the disease. This is not like that. All we know indicates that this is spread like the flu, which requires prolonged close contact with an ill individual or direct contact with respiratory secretions (for example, being sneezed up). 

 

At this time, a respiratory illness is still more likely to be a common cold or influenza.   

 

The best way to protect yourself and the public at this time is practice proven techniques to limit the spread of respiratory illness.  Stay home at the first sign of illness. Cover your coughs. Wash your hands and high touch surfaces frequently.

 

If you would not otherwise seek medical care, this is not a reason to do so now.  Take care of mild symptoms at home as you would otherwise do, and don’t expose others unnecessarily.

 

If you have more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or inability to stay hydrated, call your medical provider to discuss your symptoms, whether you need to be seen or if it’s safe to stay home, and make a plan for care and evaluations if needed in a way that will not expose others. Your medical provider can communicate with public health around testing needs.

 

There is no need for testing people without symptoms at this time. 

 

As we learn more about this situation, we will communicate with you. If we have new cases, we will address further needs as they arise in coordination with Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

For more information, please contact Mary Kay Larson, director of communications, Lake Oswego School District, mary.kay.larson@loswego.k12.or.us.