UPDATED (9:21 a.m. PT) The Oregon Health Authority has announced the state’s first “presumed confirmed case” of novel coronavirus.
Health officials said the person is a resident of Washington County, who did not travel recently, nor did the person come into direct contact with someone who had just traveled. OHA director Patrick Allen said that means it’s a case of “community spread” similar to two cases in northern California.
The positive test result came from a lab in Hillsboro that had just been authorized to screen for coronavirus on Friday. The person affected is recovering at Kaiser Westside Medical Center, but health officials would not disclose the person’s gender, age or condition.
Health officials said the person affected has spent time in the Forest Hills Elementary School in the Lake Oswego School District. According to a message sent to the LOSD community, the person affected is a district employee. LOSD also said it intends to close the Forest Hills school through early next week.
“With an abundance of caution and care for everyone’s health, we are closing Forest Hills through Wednesday, Mar. 4,” LOSD said.
“The school will be cleaned deeply. All activities at the school are cancelled through Wednesday.”
During the presser, OHA put out a press release stating the individual is employed at a school in Clackamas County. pic.twitter.com/GMDySb6WXR— Meerah Powell (@meerahpowell) February 29, 2020
The positive result is considered “presumed” for now, because it needs to be confirmed by a second test done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But OHA officials said the CDC will use the same testing protocol used by state health officials in Oregon, so they’re responding to Friday’s result as if the affected person has the virus. At the same time, health officials said they’re still in the “early stages” of their investigation.
Gov. Kate Brown expressed that the state is taking the virus arrival in Oregon “very seriously.” Brown announced the formation of a coronavirus task force Friday morning. In remarks at a Friday evening press conference, Brown offered support for health staff.
“I understand that this news is concerning,” Brown said. “However, I want to reassure you that our state and local authorities are responding quickly to the case. They are professionally trained to handle this situation. Oregonians should know that we are taking this very seriously.”
A second Oregonian who was being investigated for illness caused by the new coronavirus has tested negative. That case is unrelated to the Lake Oswego schools employee who is hospitalized in Hillsboro, presumed to have COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority announced on Saturday that seven other tests are pending.
OHA officials emphasized that many people who contract coronavirus will not get seriously ill.
“For most people who contract this disease … the disease itself is relatively mild,” Allen said. “A small percentage will have a serious disease and it could progress that way.”
Allen emphasized the same basic hygiene steps that people should be taking any time there are communicable diseases around: to wash hands, cover any sneezes or coughs, and to stay home at the first sign of illness.