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Portland Public Schools Weighing In-Person Options For Fall

<p>There is currently no vaccine to prevent contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.</p>

There is currently no vaccine to prevent contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

UPDATE (3:48 p.m. PT) — Portland Public Schools said Saturday it is still working out what the beginning of the school year will look like. Its current plan includes some in-person learning, with physical distancing and other precautions in place.

“It is important that our students, families, and employees understand that we will only reopen school buildings if public health experts say it is safe to do so,” the school district said in an update. “If we are not able to safely open school buildings, all teaching and learning for every student will take place virtually/online until it is safe to return to school in-person.”

Those activities would be conducted virtually and would include teachers individually reaching out to students, opportunities for families to become familiar with the learning technology to be used by their children, training for teachers on technology and health protocols and ensuring that every student can access online learning.

Following that two-week “orientation,” the district said, its current plan includes both students returning to school in-person and engaging in online learning in small groups starting Sept. 14.

The district said those plans are “flexible” in anticipation of changes related to the ongoing pandemic. 

For pre-K through eighth grade students, the district said it is developing a plan where students would be split up into different “cohorts,” some attending school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and others attending school Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be spent sanitizing classrooms between the two groups, and for teachers and staff to continue training and professional development.

“Our goal is to ensure that student learning is taking place five days per week, regardless of location,” PPS said. “As we balance physical distancing requirements (6 feet apart) with our desire to maximize in-person instruction, our current modeling suggests that students could be in their school buildings at least two days a week.”

For high school students, PPS said it is considering a model in which students would take four classes per semester for a total of eight classes for the entire school year. That schedule would allow students to complete a yearlong course in one semester, the district said.

“For example, a student may have English in the Fall semester and History in the Spring semester. We believe that allowing students to focus on fewer classes will help them be more successful in an environment that is, at least for part of the year, a hybrid model of in-person and online learning,” PPS said of the plan.

High school students would also use a similar “cohort” model to pre-K through eighth grade students in order to reduce class sizes, spending only two days per week on campus.The district said it will share information about elective classes, athletics and other extracurricular activities in the future.

It said it is reviewing full-time online school options for families who do not want their children to attend in-person classes.

Portland Art Museum to begin limited reopening Thursday

The Portland Art Museum will begin a limited reopening of some of its galleries Thursday following a four-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The museum will have four free admission days spanning Thursday through Sunday.

“There’s no better way to heal and to learn than making it possible for everyone to connect with art and the creative spirit,” Brian Ferriso, director and chief curator for the Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center, said in a statement.

The museum said it will require all visitors and staff to wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance from other people. It is also requiring visitors to purchase timed entry tickets.

The museum will open a limited number of galleries to provide more room for physical distancing. Because of that limited opening, it said admission for adults will be discounted from $20 to $10 beginning July 23 and lasting until all galleries can safely be reopened. Admission for people age 17 and under will continue to be free.

Indoor film screenings and in-person public programs, like tours, will reopen on a separate timeline. Event rentals of spaces within the museum will also remain closed in cooperation with state guidelines.

Oregon reports 409 new known coronavirus cases

The Oregon Health Authority Saturday reported 409 new confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. That’s the highest number of cases reported in a day the state has seen so far.

OHA said in a news release that the high number is partially due to “a transition to a new reporting system, which prevented the processing of positive cases for a few hours Thursday.” Those cases that weren’t previously processed were included in Saturday’s case count, the agency said.

The state now has a total of 11,851 known coronavirus cases, according to OHA. The state has seen 232 coronavirus-related deaths.

Many of the new cases announced Friday are in the Portland area, with 99 in Multnomah County, 55 in Washington County and 29 in Clackamas County. Umatilla County also continued to see a bulk of new cases, with 50. Marion County also saw 61 cases.

“Since Oregon began reopening we’ve seen the spread of COVID-19 when people get together, especially when they get together to celebrate with family and friends for graduations, for birthdays,” Patrick Allen, the state health authority’s director, said on Friday.

Health officials are asking everyone in the state to voluntarily limit indoor social gatherings to groups of 10 or fewer people for at least the next three weeks.

As of Friday, 208 people are hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Oregon, including 30 who are on ventilators. The coronavirus has led to the hospitalization of 1,180 people statewide over the course of the pandemic.

Clark County diagnoses continue to climb

The most recent people to die of the virus were a woman in her 50s with underlying medical conditions and a man in his 80s whose underlying medical conditions have not yet been determined.

The latest available data from the Washington Department of Health shows 38,581 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the state and 1,409 are known to have died of it. As of Wednesday, COVID-19 has led to the hospitalization of 4,665 people in Washington.

Modeling shows COVID infections will keep climbing

If Oregon stays at its current rate of coronavirus transmission — an estimated 1,100 daily infections, with only about 200 to 300 of those cases being diagnosed — the state could see 3,600 new daily infections by the end of July, according to a forecast from state health officials.

With the current rate of transmission,  Oregon could see about 50 people needing to be admitted into the hospital everyday, the forecast found. 

In a call with reporters Friday, epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority reviewed the agency’s most recent projections for COVID-19 in the state. 

In the worst-case scenario mapped by the state, transmission would climb by 10%, resulting in about 7,300 new infections per day and 76 daily hospitalizations. 

But even with a 10% decrease in transmission, the state would still see a slight increase in total coronavirus cases, Sidelinger said.

Sidelinger also said Oregon’s hospital capacity seems to be adequate for at least the next two months. If cases continue to increase, however, that capacity eventually be stretched, he said.

The medical establishment's ability to meet COVID-19 testing needs capacity is, likewise, adequate for now, said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority. 

“Testing capacity in Oregon has increased dramatically every week. We ran over 39,000 tests last week alone,” he said. “But, due to a variety of factors, testing supply chains are under strain.”

Allen said Oregon could eventually see a shortage of testing supplies as it competes with states purchasing equipment through the same national supply chain. He said state health officials are working to identify more lab capacity to offset any future shortages the state could face. They are also continuing to ask the federal government for more supplies.

Inspectors find most bars, restaurants comply with COVID rules

State inspectors who visited 800 Oregon bars and restaurants over the Fourth of July weekend found about one in 10 did not fully comply with coronavirus guidelines.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission said its inspectors issued verbal instructions to 74 businesses, telling them to follow social distancing and face covering rules. It is also forwarding reports to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration about nine bars and restaurants, so that OSHA can determine if there were violations that require follow-up actions.

The OLCC said most bars and restaurants in the Portland metro area, Salem region and Medford region were in compliance with the rules, though some received verbal instructions.. 

The agency referred three businesses to OSHA in the region that includes Benton, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln and Linn counties.  It also referred six businesses to OSHA from the region that includes all Central and Eastern Oregon counties.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

OPB Staff