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Live updates: COVID-19′s effect on Northwest prisons, universities and sewage plants

The University of Oregon told students Wednesday that it will shift to nearly all remote learning this fall to minimize the spread of COVID-19. A day earlier, Western Oregon University made a similar decision. Some students will still live on campus, with dining halls and dorms staying open, but it marks a significant shift as headlines from across the country share news of coronavirus outbreaks at other American universities, including elsewhere in the Northwest.

Faculty at UO and WOU will have their work cut out for them, if stories coming out of Southern Oregon University are any guide. Professors there say the transition to a new model of teaching has brought long workdays, technical challenges and an emotional burden for faculty members.

“I am 100% burned out and so is everyone I know,” said SOU digital media professor Andrew Gay. “I think that all of us are still pretty much in crisis mode of knowing that we have these really difficult tasks.”

Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University are part of an effort to dig into a COVID-19 treatment touted by President Donald Trump.

They’re looking into whether convalescent plasma, made from the blood of people who have recovered from the coronavirus, can pass along antibodies that will help currently sick people get better more quickly.

The Federal Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the treatment, which has some backing in history, but has not been yet been verified through rigorous scientific research.

Researchers are hoping to get the latest poop on just how far coronavirus reaches — literally. With $1.2 million in state support, Oregon State University is preparing to start analyzing samples from more than 40 wastewater treatment plants across the state.

People infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their feces. Already, OSU tests have been used to get a focused look at outbreaks in Newport, Bend and Hermiston. Expanding that program will allow researchers to report results to the Oregon Health Authority and county officials, and get a sense of trends beyond what testing reveals on its own.

Oregon has lost six more lives to COVID-19, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the state to 433, the Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday.

The fatalities include two people in their 50s: a 55-year-old Jefferson County man with underlying medical conditions, and a 55-year-old Marion County woman who tested positive May 5 and died Aug. 25. The woman’s death certificate listed COVID-19 as a “significant condition contributing to death,” health officials said.

Also deceased: a 62-year-old man and 92 year-old woman in Multnomah County, a 90-year-old Baker County man and an 82-year-old woman whose place of residence is still being verified. Each had underlying medical conditions, the health authority said.

Officials reported 222 diagnoses Wednesday, bringing total confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Oregon to 25,571 since the start of the pandemic.

Another 23 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Clark County, Washington, the local public health department reported Tuesday. To date, 2,478 residents of Clark County have tested positive for the virus and 48 have died.

Since the start of the pandemic, 72,161 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington, and 1,880 have died, according to the latest data available from the state.

The Oregon Department of Corrections said Thursday that a fifth inmate in its custody has died from COVID-19. The inmate was a man between 50 and 60 years old and was serving a sentence at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, the prison agency said. This is the fourth DOC inmate to die of the virus this month.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Courtney Sherwood
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