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Oregon Health Authority Reports 79 Schools With Active COVID-19 Outbreaks

Up from 48 the previous week, the numbers are likely an undercount or behind current case information.
September 30, 2021

According to Oregon Health Authority’s weekly report, there are nearly 80 schools with active outbreaks in schools across the state.

That’s 31 more schools than OHA listed the week before — an increase of about 65%.

Multiple schools are reporting multiple outbreaks. For example, North Bend Senior High School in Coos County has reported three active school outbreaks, adding up to a total of 26 cases between the outbreaks. In the Sept. 22 report, there was one outbreak listed with a total of 9 cases.

Outbreaks are defined as having two or more cases identified “where there is evidence of transmission” at a school.

North Bend Superintendent Kevin Bogatin said in his district, outbreaks have been related to athletics and extracurricular activities.

“We cannot confirm any kind of spread that we can link to the classroom,” Bogatin said. “We have had outbreaks related to athletics and connected to specific teams.”

Even cases at the elementary level connect to athletics, Bogatin said.

Games have had to be postponed due to all the cases and quarantines, though North Bend High did finally get a chance to play its local rival, Marshfield in football last Saturday, September 25. North Bend lost the game.

Bogatin said staff has been “fairly healthy,” which has helped schools stay open, even though many students are out of school.

But school has been in session there for less than a month, and Bogatin said COVID-19 has put a strain on operations. Staffing shortages everywhere — from classified staff and sports officials to food delivery drivers — have folks spread thin.

“We’re on the edge,” Bogatin said. “It’s a razor’s edge here on a day-to-day basis.”

Eight other schools are listed as having multiple outbreaks. Three of those schools have at least one resolved outbreak, but the other six have multiple active outbreaks. The schools are spread out across the state, from the Portland area to southern Oregon, but there are multiple schools with multiple outbreaks in Jackson and Coos Counties.

These numbers are likely undercounts or out of date, due to lags between reporting from schools, families, and local public health authorities.

The most recent onset listed in the report is September 17, almost two weeks ago.

For example, according to OHA’s report, Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland has only had one student test positive for COVID-19 in the last 28 days. According to PPS’ own dashboard, 12 students and one staff member have been “isolated” in the last 28 days. “Isolation” includes individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are “presumed” to have COVID-19. PPS does not report positive cases in its dashboard.

Some of the report reflects individual quarantines or whole school closures. Coquille Junior Senior High, for example, reports eight individual student cases and two outbreaks totaling 11 cases.

The school is closed for in-person learning until October 11.

Local district information is likely the most reliable, though districts aren’t required to publish COVID-19 case information. Hillsboro is the only large district in Oregon or southwest Washington without a dashboard.

Some districts, like David Douglas and Gresham Barlow, have dashboards but rely on data from the Multnomah Education Service District.

Even the data districts share varies. Some districts share positive case numbers, some share “isolation” numbers, others share quarantine numbers. It also varies whether case information is separated by staff and students.

Though imperfect, OHA’s weekly report provides the only statewide information on COVID-19 in schools. For example, North Bend School District, a district with multiple active COVID-19 outbreaks, does not appear to have a dashboard on its website.

There have been some changes to OHA’s weekly report, too. Due to a recent reporting change, outbreaks do not separate student and staff cases like the number of cases do.

Individual case numbers at schools have also increased — from 550 last week to 740 this week, a jump of more than 34%.

This story was originally published by Oregon Public Broadcasting.