COVID-19 updates: More schools across Oregon cancel classes as staff, students call in sick
The Oregon Health Authority reported 9,796 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as Thursday, bringing the state total to 504,731.
This is an increase from Wednesday’s reported case count of 8,040.
There are 25 new COVID-19 related deaths in the state, raising the death toll to 5,870.
The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 777 according to OHA, which is 21 more than yesterday.
There are 144 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds, which is two fewer than yesterday.
Oregon health officials have set up a hotline for people to self-report their at-home positive COVID-19 test results, about a month after announcing a multi-part plan to confront the omicron variant, including replacing contact tracing. State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said the move is necessary in the face of “widespread transmission” in the state.
“The current and rapidly growing surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant has outpaced the capacity of Oregon’s public health system to effectively conduct active case investigation and contact tracing,” Sidelinger said in a press release announcing the hotline.
OHA is encouraging — but not requiring — people who have tested positive for the virus to call the COVID-19 Case Support Hotline at 1-866-917-8881, or complete an online survey to share their results with government officials. In “highly recommending” that Oregonians share their COVID-19 status via the hotline, OHA says people can get questions answered regarding their health, isolation and quarantine protocols.
Health officials in much of the state are advising people with positive COVID-19 test results to contact local authorities rather than go through the new OHA hotline, however. Local health departments in eight counties and three Tribes have asked local residents to call them directly, including Multnomah and Washington counties in the Portland area; Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties in southern Oregon; as well as Clatsop, Jefferson and Umatilla counties. The three Tribes asking to be contacted directly are the Burns Paiute, Siletz and Warm Springs.
OHA says the hotline is part of a broader shift in priorities, with a focus on “outbreaks in high-risk settings” including long-term care, health facilities, schools and “food chain industries.”
The North Clackamas, Salem-Keizer and Reynolds school districts will be closed to students Friday as administrators work on a response to the COVID-19 surge.
Administrators in those districts, some of the largest in Oregon, cited staffing shortages related to the virus. Reynolds will be closed next Tuesday as well before resuming school on Wednesday.
The list of closures due to the omicron variant continues to grow. Five Beaverton schools will transition into temporary distance learning over the next week.
The schools are: Beaver Acres Elementary, Errol Hassell Elementary, McKinley Elementary, William Walker Elementary and Five Oaks Middle School. Friday will be a transition day for staff, with no classes for students. School will start remotely Tuesday, and continue online until at least Jan. 21.
District officials said the decision was based on several data points, including the number of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19, number of students in quarantine and overall absences.
Other school districts imposing districtwide closures and transition to distance learning include Parkrose, David Douglas and the Dayton School District.
See the list below of all Oregon and Southwest Washington schools that have announced a switch to remote learning.
Portland Public Schools:
PPS announced Thursday it will close the Franklin High School and Tubman Middle School campuses beginning Friday while temporarily transitioning to distance learning starting Tuesday, through at least Jan. 21.
Faubion School transitioned to distance learning Wednesday and will continue through at least the end of the week.
Jefferson High School closed Wednesday and transitioned to distance learning through at least Jan. 19.
Four other PPS campuses — Cleveland, McDaniel and Roosevelt high schools and Ockley Green Middle School — returned to remote learning on Monday.
Beaverton School District:
The district announced that Beaver Acres Elementary, Errol Hassell Elementary, McKinley Elementary, William Walker Elementary, Five Oaks Middle School, Community School and Passages will be closed starting Thursday.
The schools will transition to distance learning Friday through at least Jan. 21.
Forest Grove School District:
Forest Grove High School announced Monday night it will pause in-person learning through at least Jan. 21.
Neil Armstrong Middle School announced it was pausing in-person learning starting Thursday.
Vancouver Public Schools:
McLoughlin Middle School and Fort Vancouver High School went to distance learning this week.
Columbia River High School, Skyview High School, Alki Middle School, Jason Lee Middle School and Jefferson Middle School will be distance learning from Tuesday through Jan. 21.
Hudson’s Bay High School, Discovery Middle School, Gaiser Middle School, Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Vancouver iTech Preparatory and Vancouver Flex Academy will be distance learning Jan. 24-27.
Tigard-Tualatin School District:
Tualatin and Tigard high schools, and Fowler, Hazelbrook and Twality middle schools moved to distance learning Thursday, and will continue through Jan. 21.
The district previously moved Durham Elementary into distance learning beginning Monday, and will continue through at least Tuesday.
Jefferson County School District:
The Warm Springs K-8 Academy campus will remain closed through at least Friday.
Ashland School District:
Ashland High School announced it would move to distance learning until Jan. 31.
Other districtwide closures and distance learning:
Read the full story: PPS updates distance learning, quarantine guidelines
The latest weekly numbers from Oregon health officials are further evidence the state is dealing with the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority reports that the week ending Sunday counted a record 47,272 cases — a sixfold increase from two weeks before, and nearly three times more than the previous record from last August. Hospitalizations are also up by 68% from the previous week, according to OHA. Deaths were also up over the week before, from 89 to 113.
As the demand for testing grows and the omicron variant surge roars on, Kristina Edmunson, spokesperson for the Oregon attorney general’s office, said it’s important for Oregonians to keep an eye out for COVID test scams.
“We’ve continued to get consumer complaints about just suspicious testing centers and sites that are popping up throughout the state,” Edmunson said.
She said to look out for testing sites charging out-of-pocket fees, asking for sensitive personal or financial information, or websites that lack logos or contact information.
Read full story here: Oregon AG warns against COVID-19 test scams
Oregon has given most of its initial supply of Paxlovid — a promising new antiviral drug from Pfizer to treat COVID-19 — to nonprofit community health clinics across the state. The clinics, also known as federally qualified health centers, provide primary care to low-income, uninsured, rural, and historically disadvantaged populations.
Nationwide, the drug is in extremely limited supply due to the time it takes to manufacture. Oregon had received just 680 doses of Paxlovid as of Tuesday.
The federal government is allocating doses to states based on their population, and leaving it to states to decide how to distribute it.
Read the full story: Oregon has its first doses of Paxlovid. Here’s where it’s going.
The Supreme Court on Thursday stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
Read the full story: Supreme Court halts Biden’s COVID vaccine-or-test mandate for large companies
Current hospitalizations in Oregon are over 700 and daily COVID-19 case counts are alarmingly high. Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she’s sending 700 more National Guard members to Oregon hospitals, for a total of more than 1,200. Brown originally announced the deployment of 500 members on Jan. 7.
On social media, the governor wrote: “Thank you, once again, to our Guard members, their families, and their employers for this sacrifice and support. As they step up yet again, I am asking all Oregonians to continue to do your part. Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear your masks, and stay home when you are sick.”
More than 50 hospitals will receive help.
The American Red Cross has declared its first-ever national blood crisis.
Hospitals in the Portland area struggled with blood shortages before the first case of COVID-19 struck the region, according to Dr. Rachel Cook, the quality director of the bone marrow and stem cell transplant program at Oregon Health & Science University.
Now, two years into the pandemic, hospitals in the region are facing the worst blood shortage they’ve seen in over a decade.
Hospitals now have to prioritize their limited supply of blood and platelets to those who are actively bleeding, or undergoing emergency surgeries.
According to the Red Cross, the decline in donations coincided with the outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19. With omicron on its tail, blood drives are being canceled and there have been staffing shortages.
Read the full story: Blood shortage hitting Oregon hospitals as Red Cross declares crisis
Dozens of criminal defendants in Oregon are currently facing charges without a defense attorney.
According to the Office of Public Defense Services, more than 45 people who qualify for a public defender don’t have one. As of last week, 19 were in custody on pre-trial offenses.
An increase in crime in some counties and nearly two years of the global pandemic have contributed to a strain on Oregon’s criminal justice system. Though the larger issue, public defenders argue, is a public defense system that has long been understaffed, overworked and inefficient.
Read the full story: Oregon’s public defense system falters as pandemic continues
This is a developing story. Watch for updates throughout the day.
The Associated Press and Jefferson Public Radio’s Sophia Prince contributed to this report.
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