COVID-19 Updates: More Oregon Schools Canceling In-Person Classes; Washington governor suspends elective medical procedures
The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the North West has spurred a relentless march of developments in recent days.
Across Oregon, more schools are canceling in-person learning as students and teachers call in sick (see list of schools below). As people swarm in-person testing sites and scour pharmacy shelves for test kits, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is warning Oregonians about COVID-19 testing scams. The state is preparing to distribute an order of 6 million test kits to organizations serving those most vulnerable to infection. A similar equity lens guides hospitals receiving the latest anti-COVID drugs.
Meanwhile, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has ordered a pause in elective hospital procedures to prevent his state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, as he deploys members of the National Guard to help the answer.
It is an effort with life and death consequences for both states. Nearly 6,000 Oregonians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 25 of those deaths were reported Thursday. The Oregon Health Authority confirmed 9,796 virus diagnoses that day, a new high in a string of grim records.
Here are the top headlines and the latest updates on the continued spread of the coronavirus.
Schools in Oregon and Southwest Washington huddle together as students, staff and teachers are sick
All public schools in Oregon and Washington will be closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Here is the latest information on the closures and distance learning efforts that districts have announced in response to the challenges of COVID-19:
Portland Public Schools:
- The Franklin High School and Tubman Middle School campuses are closed Friday and will move to remote learning next week until at least January 21.
- The Faubion school is in distance learning at least until this week.
- Jefferson High School is on remote learning until at least January 19.
- Cleveland, McDaniel and Roosevelt High Schools and Ockley Green Middle School have also transitioned to distance learning. Cleveland and McDaniel announced Thursday evening that they will return to in-person learning on January 18.
Reynolds School District: Closed until Tuesday due to lack of staff. Classes are expected to resume on Wednesday.
Beaverton School District: Beaver Acres Elementary, Errol Hassell Elementary, McKinley Elementary, William Walker Elementary, Five Oaks Middle School, Community School and Passages closed Thursday to prepare for a transition to remote learning, which begins Friday and will last until at least January 21 .
Forest Grove School District: Forest Grove High School and Neil Armstrong Middle School have moved to distance learning until at least January 21.
Vancouver Public Schools: Middle and high schools are hosting staggering in-person and distance learning days by January 27. All the details are online here.
Tigard-Tualatin School District:
- Tualatin and Tigard high schools and Fowler, Hazelbrook and Twality colleges are on distance learning until January 21.
- Durham Elementary is on distance learning until at least Tuesday.
Jefferson County School District: The Warm Springs K-8 Academy campus will remain closed until at least Friday.
Ashland School District: Ashland High School is in remote learning until January 31.
Other districts that have closed or transitioned to distance learning include:
Read the full story here: Omicron and schools: Answers to questions about district closures, safe behaviors during in-person learning, and how testing, quarantines, and vaccines are changing the equation.
Oregon’s plan for COVID testing, treatment prioritizes fairness
Oregon officials say they are on track to receive 6 million home COVID-19 test kits, containing 12 million individual tests, by the end of January. This includes nearly one million test kits expected in the next seven days.
But unlike some states that make their COVID-19 tests available to the general public, Oregon is focusing on those most vulnerable to infection.
Read the full story here: Oregon begins receiving COVID-19 tests as case numbers rise and more schools go online
This focus on fairness also underpins the state’s plan for Paxlovid, a promising new antiviral drug from Pfizer used to treat COVID-19. As of Tuesday, the state had received 680 doses of the drug, the supply of which is extremely limited and allocated by the federal government based on population.
Oregon donated most of its initial supply to community health clinics that provide primary care to low-income, uninsured, rural, and historically disadvantaged populations.
Read the full story here: Oregon has its first doses of the Paxlovid treatment for COVID-19. Here’s where it’s going.
As demand for testing grows, so do test scams
State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is urging Oregonians to watch out for testing sites that look suspicious or vendors selling home tests at exorbitant prices.
The Oregon Department of Justice this week opened an investigation into a company called The Center for Covid Control, which has been accused of operating suspicious COVID-19 testing sites.
Read the full story here: Oregon AG warns of COVID-19 testing scams
Here’s how to report a positive COVID home test
People who manage to avoid scams and access all COVID-19 home tests are encouraged to report their results whenever they test positive – although this is optional, not required.
The Oregon Health Authority takes these reports on its COVID-19 hotline, 1-866-917-8881, or its online survey.
Health departments in eight Oregon counties have asked their residents to report COVID-19 diagnoses directly to them, rather than through the hotline: Multnomah and Washington counties in the Portland area; Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine counties in southern Oregon; and Clatsop, Jefferson and Umatilla counties. The Burns Paiute, Siletz and Warm Springs Tribes are also asking to be contacted directly.
Related: Biden announces plans to buy 500 million more COVID tests and offer free masks
Oregon reports 68% increase in COVID-related hospitalizations
The latest weekly numbers from Oregon health officials are further evidence that the state is dealing with the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority reports that the week ending Sunday had a record 47,272 cases – a six-fold increase from two weeks prior, and nearly three times the previous record high last August. Hospitalizations are also up 68% from the previous week, according to the public health agency. Deaths also rose over the previous week, from 89 to 113.
Hospitals suspend elective surgeries
Hospitals are struggling to respond to a spike in COVID-19 admissions at a time when medical staff are calling more and more patients with their own infections, Washington Governor Jay Inslee responded Thursday, directing hospitals to suspend elective surgeries and procedures for at least one month. It also calls on about 100 National Guard members to help with staffing challenges.
Read the full story here: Inslee deploys 100 National Guardsmen to help hospitals, orders halt on elective procedures
Oregon Governor Kate Brown is asking for even more help. It is sending 700 more National Guard members to hospitals in Oregon this week, joining 500 people it deployed Jan. 7. More than 50 hospitals will receive this aid.
In Portland, a shortage of blood donations is also affecting medical procedures. According to the Red Cross, the drop in donations coincided with the outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19. With Omicron on his heels, blood drives are canceled and there have been staff shortages. Hospitals must now prioritize their limited supply of blood and platelets to those who are actively bleeding or undergoing emergency surgery.
Read the full story: Blood shortage hits Oregon hospitals as Red Cross declares crisis
This is a developing story. Watch for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.