PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A middle school student within the Hillsboro School District has tested positive for the coronavirus, district officials announced on Sunday.
The South Meadows Middle School student was last in class on Tuesday, March 3 when they exhibited mild symptoms of the virus. That student has since been in self-isolation at home. According to Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott, the student’s test results came back positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
South Meadows Middle School will not be closed after school officials consulted with the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education on the matter. The school campus has undergone an “enhanced cleaning” on Sunday before students return from the weekend, according to Scott.
The student diagnosed with COVID-19 will continue their quarantine at home until they are well enough to return to school.
During the Sunday evening press conference, a Washington County Health Officer reassured the public and explained why officials made the decision not to close the school.
“Right now, rather than close the school, we are emphasizing the importance of not attending schools, going to work or public gatherings if you have any symptoms of illness,” said Dr. Christina Baumann. “If you would not otherwise seek medical care for the symptoms that you have, we urge you to stay home and recover.”
“Based on the guidance we received, we are confident that we are offering a safe environment for our students and we encourage all of our students to come to school tomorrow,” said Scott.
When asked if parents could opt out of sending their kids back to school, Scott reiterated that students are not in a high-risk population for the coronavirus.
“We encourage our students to come to school because we believe that every day matters,” said Scott. “Of course parents will make their own decisions about whether they send their kids to school or not. I would just reiterate that students aren’t in a high-risk population.”
Watch the full press conference here:
Washington County Public Health is currently working on contact tracing anyone that the student has been in close proximity with in recent days. However, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said that the virus is generally in the community at this point. The middle school student did not have any recent travel history that could be linked to the coronavirus; health officials said the student contracted it through the community spread of the illness.
The Hillsboro Superintendent sent out a letter to district families and staff on Sunday that read, in part:
“The unfortunate reality is that COVID-19 is in our community. Updated guidance from OHA and WCHD is that closing schools may not be an effective method for stopping the spread of the virus. This is the same stance currently being taken by school districts in other major metropolitan areas and communities around the country and around the world.
The best prevention is still practicing good health hygiene habits – washing your hands frequently, covering your cough or sneeze, getting plenty of rest and eating a healthy diet – and avoiding contact with people who are symptomatic. The best way to limit spread is staying home when ill.”