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Oregon state agencies, school districts preparing for coronavirus outbreak

Register-Guard - 2/28/2020

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a new multi-agency team tasked with preparing the state for a potential outbreak of the coronavirus virus.

The Coronavirus Response Team will interact with state and local health authorities, hospitals, community health partners and school districts to coordinate preparations and potential responses to Covid-19.

There are still zero confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oregon and officials say that the risk of contracting Covid-19 is low.

"However, in an escalating global health crisis, we must make sure we are as ready and informed as we can be," Brown said in a statement.

The state is monitoring people who might have come into contact with the disease and the Oregon Health Authority is providing weekly updates on monitoring.

Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen is scheduled to update lawmakers on coronavirus monitoring during a meeting of the House Health Care Committee at 1 p.m. Friday.

"Oregon has proven its resiliency in preparing for and responding to Ebola, H1N1 influenza, Zika, and other global public health threats," Allen said in a statement. "Each time, Oregon's public health and health care systems and their partners have found ways to strengthen our collective response. If the coronavirus comes to Oregon, we will be ready."

On Thursday, the Oregon Department of Education sent a memo to superintendents and principals advising certain preparations be taken in case of an outbreak.

Some are continuations of current best practices, such as emphasizing that students stay home when they are sick, cover their mouths while coughing and wash their hands regularly.

Same goes for staff.

Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is also encouraged.

"Many of the everyday precautions we take to prevent flu are useful in protecting against the spread of Covid-19," the memo reads.

The ODE advised that if a coronavirus case appears at an Oregon school that school leaders will consider how to best inform the community that avoids potential exposures while also maintaining confidentiality.

The memo warned of stigma or discrimination toward a student as a potential collateral outcome of infection.

For school officials trying to determine coronavirus risk, the memo warned that they should use only the guidance provided by local and state health authorities and do not "make determinations of risk based on race, ethnicity, or country of origin."

Contact reporter Connor Radnovich at cradnovich@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6864, or follow him on Twitter at @CDRadnovich

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