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Lake Oswego district monitoring absences after elementary school employee tests positive for coronavirus

Forest Hills Elementary School will be closed through March 4 after a school employee tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, the first presumed case in Oregon.

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — One day after learning an employee at a Lake Oswego elementary school is presumed to have coronavirus, the superintendent said the district’s top priority is the safety of students and staff.

The person believed to be infected works at Forest Hills Elementary School and tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, the first presumed case in Oregon. Superintendent Dr. Lora de la Cruz said the person was last at the school on Feb. 19 and stayed home after that because they felt sick.

In the hours after learning of the employee’s illness, the district announced that Forest Hills Elementary would be closed through Wednesday, March 4. De la Cruz said they didn’t need to close the school but decided to do so for several reasons. One of those reasons was because March 4 would mark two weeks since people at the school would have potentially been exposed to the sick employee. The school will also get a deep cleaning during the time its closed.

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“We elected to close it in an abundance of caution and care for the children and adults in our schools and community,” she said.

Watch Saturday's news conference

In addition to closing Forest Hills Elementary through March 4, all weekend activities at district schools were canceled. De la Cruz said she expects all schools, except for Forest Hills Elementary, will be open on Monday. Forest Hills Elementary is the only school in the district that was exposed, according to de la Cruz.

As for how many people were exposed, health officials are still trying to figure that out. De la Cruz said the employee would have likely only had close contact with a few individuals. State and local health agencies are working to trace who those people were and notify them of their exposure.

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Some school employees were exposed to the virus after visiting their sick coworker at the hospital. This happened before the employee tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. The employee, who lives in Washington County, is currently getting treatment in isolation at Kaiser Permanente Westside Hospital in Hillsboro.

The school employees who visited the presumed infected person have been told to stay home and seek medical advice, de la Cruz said.

The district is also looking into Forest Hills Elementary’s attendance records to see if there’s been a trend of increased absences since Feb. 19. When asked if anything out of the ordinary has been discovered, de la Cruz Saturday afternoon said, “that’s not something we’re prepared to speak to at this time.” 

She said the district nurse is also working with families of students who have underlying conditions and may be more vulnerable to potential exposure of coronavirus. The nurse is also connecting with families of students who reported being sick since Feb. 19, de la Cruz said.

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De la Cruz also addressed those who want to help the infected school employee. She said while she appreciates that the community wants to support the person, they aren’t releasing any additional details about the person out of privacy concerns.

“We care deeply about this person’s health and our thoughts are with him and his family,” she said.

RELATED: Employee presumed to have coronavirus was last at Lake Oswego elementary school on Feb. 19

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