Oregon Reports 26 New Coronavirus Cases Linked to Schools

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The Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday announced that 26 new coronavirus cases were detected at public and private schools offering in-person instruction last week. Some 50,000 Oregon students are attending classes in-person, state schools chief Colt Gill said Friday.

Only one new case was detected in a Portland-area public school.

Of the new cases, 12 were among students and 14 among employees. And five of those infected — three of them students, two of them staff — were at schools that appeared in previous agency counts of school coronavirus cases.

The health authority reported new cases in 17 schools in its weekly report. But barely half those cases were confirmed last week; 46% were among students and employees who tested positive prior to Oct. 25.

That’s because the Oregon Health Authority updates its school tallies whenever officials confirm a coronavirus case was definitively linked to a school offering in-person instruction, even if that confirmation comes days or even weeks after a positive test for the virus.

“Information is processed by several individuals, and somewhere along the chain, delays or errors happen,” agency spokeswoman Delia Hernandez told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Every day we work hard to improve the data collection process.”

Local health officials typically interview people either confirmed or presumed to have contracted coronavirus, Hernandez said. And if that person either attends or works in a school, those local health officials notify the district.

From there, the Oregon Health Authority checks with the state Department of Education. If the school offered in-person instruction, it’s included in the report.

State health officials release their findings each Wednesday — all cases they discovered between Sunday and Saturday of the previous week.

Although the latest release detailed 26 new cases Wednesday, only 14 of them originated last week. The largest single outbreak was tied to the Wallowa school district’s 100-student high school, where three students and one staffer tested positive for coronavirus.

Those cases were confirmed Oct. 30.

The health authority also reported three cases tied to Morrow County’s Irrigon Junior-Senior High: One of them a student, two employees.

Those cases were confirmed four days earlier on Oct. 26.

North Bend High recorded three newly confirmed infections that were originally reported to Coos County health officials Oct. 18, all of them staffers.

Every other school in the health agency’s update reported one or two new cases.

These numbers come as coronavirus cases appear to be surging in Oregon. The state tallied 597 new cases Wednesday.

It also registered its highest weekly average of confirmed or presumed cases at 546, having recorded at least 500 cases in six of the past seven days. Nationally, the U.S. this week recorded more than 100,000 cases in a single day for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The latest report on school-based coronavirus cases also comes days after Gill, the state schools chief, and Gov. Kate Brown announced relaxed requirements to allow in-person instruction, paving the way for an estimated 113,000 students to potentially return to the classroom.

Under the new standards, districts can offer in-person instruction to elementary students in large counties — or those with populations of more than 30,000 people — if they see between 50 and 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of between 5% and 8% over two weeks.

In smaller counties, or those with populations of fewer than 30,000 people, that threshold is lower: between 30 and 45 cases over two weeks with no ceiling on the per-capita rate.

In order to open in-person instruction for students at every grade level, large counties must see fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week span and a test positivity rate of less than 5% for two weeks. In small counties, the threshold is 30 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks.

Under those new guidelines, districts in more than one-third of Oregon’s counties currently meet the metrics to allow some kind of in-person instruction. Curry, Josephine, Lincoln and Wheeler qualify to allow students in every grade level into classrooms.

Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Douglas, Klamath, Polk, Tillamook and Yamhill are able to allow elementary students to attend school in-person. But Oregon education officials say schools may choose not to welcome students back to classrooms under the new metrics until Nov. 9, two weeks after the release of the new metrics.

Two of the state’s largest counties: Clackamas and Deschutes, were on track to meet the metrics to allow in-person instruction for elementary students until last week, when a rise in cases dashed those hopes.

Here’s where Oregon’s new school-based coronavirus cases are, by county:

Coos 

  • Madison Elementary in Coos Bay: 1 new student case
  • North Bend High in North Bend: 3 new staff cases

Deschutes 

  • Waldorf School in Bend: 1 new student case
  • Seven Peaks School in Bend: 1 new staff case

Douglas

  • Sutherlin East Elementary in Sutherlin: 1 new student case
  • South Umpqua High in Myrtle Creek: 1 new staff case
  • Tri-City Elementary in Myrtle Creek: 1 new student case
  • Green Elementary in Roseburg: 1 new staff case

Jackson

  • Hillside Elementary in Eagle Point: 2 new staff cases
  • Hanby Middle in Gold Hill: 1 new staff case
  • Crater High in Central Point: 1 new student case

Morrow

  • Irrigon Junior Senior High in Irrigon: 1 new student case, 2 new staff cases

Umatilla

  • Pilot Rock High in Pilot Rock: 1 new staff case

Wallowa

  • Wallowa High in Wallowa: 3 new student cases, 1 new staff case

Washington

  • Forest Hills Lutheran Christian in Cornelius: 1 new student, 1 new staff case
  • Forest Grove High in Forest Grove: 1 new student case
  • German International School in Beaverton: 1 new student case

--Eder Campuzano | 503-221-4344 | @edercampuzano | Eder on Facebook

This story was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive and is posted here through an agreement among a dozen news outlets that agreed to share coronavirus-related content.

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