OHA declares state’s 1st ‘presumptive’ coronavirus case


The adult patient is a Washington County resident and has spent time at Forest Hills Elementary School

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Health Authority officials have declared the “first presumptive case of [the] novel coronavirus,” found in the state Friday.

The adult patient is a Washington County resident and is currently isolated at Kaiser Permanente Westside Hospital, said OHA Director Patrick Allen during the Friday evening press conference. The individual had previously been under investigation as someone who possibly had the virus. A test conducted by the Public Health Laboratory in Hillsboro returned positive results for that patient mid-day Friday, said Allen.

OHA Director Pat Allen at a press conference about coronavirus, February 28, 2020 (KOIN)

“In the interest of privacy, we will not be disclosing the age, gender or specific condition of the individual,” said Allen. “Nevertheless our concern is certainly with that person and that person’s family.”

The patient is also said to have spent time at Forest Hills Elementary School. OHA is working with local school officials and the Oregon Department of Education in their response to this connection. The school district sent out an email to parents Friday evening confirming that an employee tested positive with the coronavirus and the elementary school will be closed for cleaning.

The case is currently considered “presumptive” until the Center for Disease Control can provide a confirmation test. That test is being expedited over the weekend and the results are expected as soon as early next week. The CDC has advised state health officials to treat a presumptive case as a real case of COVID-19 until otherwise confirmed.

Continuing coverage on coronavirus here

Allen said the patient had “no known travel exposure, so this is a case of the community-spread of the disease much like the case from California earlier this week.”

“We don’t know how this person became infected with COVID-19,” said Allen. “It’s too soon to say what impact this case has on family, friends, coworkers, the Lake Oswego School District, and other members of the community.”

Elementary school closes

On Friday evening, the Lake Oswego School District sent an email out to parents announcing that a Forest Hills Elementary School employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Out of “an abundance of caution,” the elementary school will be closed through Wednesday, March 4.

“LOSD, in an abundance of caution and care for everyone’s health, is cancelling all activities at LOSD schools this weekend. An LOSD employee working at Forest Hills Elementary has tested positive for the coronavirus Covid-19. It is a preliminary positive and we are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

[Forest Hills Elementary] will be cleaned deeply. All activities at the school are cancelled through Wednesday. We are working closely with the public health authorities to monitor and evaluate the situation.”

Watch the full press conference here:

Next steps

Governor Kate Brown said her office first learned of the case Friday afternoon at approximately 3 p.m. Health officials said it is still early in their investigation, and their top priority is contact tracing—determining who the patient came into close contact with in recent weeks. Close contact is considered to be any time two people are within six feet of each other for a prolonged period of time. Both Washington County and Clackamas County health officials are working on compiling a “detailed timeline” of the patient’s whereabouts and said they will continue to work through the weekend to identify people who may have come into contact with the patient.

The OHA said they are also investigating a second individual who has been exhibiting symptoms, but are still waiting to hear back from the CDC before the case is confirmed.

“We are waiting on test results for a second person as well,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “This is close to something like TB—you likely could get it if you are within six feet of someone. OHA is advising if you are sick, it is important to stay home.”

The OHA now posts weekly updates online as officials monitor COVID-19 across the state, but said their age-old advice to the public is the same: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, stay home if you feel sick and call your health care provider for guidance on your symptoms.

“We will announce any individual positive test results when we become aware of them,” said Allen.

Brown advised Oregon residents to go about their daily lives and stay calm amid this development. Earlier on Friday, Brown organized a coronavirus response team to coordinate statewide efforts on monitoring the new virus.

KOIN 6 News will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

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