Business & Development, Education, Public Safety & Health

Area businesses, schools respond as COVID surges

The case counts for COVID-19 are setting record highs in Lane County for weeks – a surge also seen across the state. 

The most recent surveillance summary from Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reports 41 people in Creswell tested positive for COVID-19 since March; 77 people in Cottage Grove; 652 people in Springfield; and 18 people in Pleasant Hill. 

In Lane County, OHA reported 2,941 cases, a 44-case increase from the previous week. Of those cases, 251 are infectious, 11 are hospitalized and 33 have died. 

The state reported over 771 new cases on Tuesday alone, and OHA also reports that infection cases increased 34% the last week in October, compared to the week prior. That translates into 3,542 more cases. Throughout the state, 51,909 people have tested positive and people are dying daily; since March, 737 have died in Oregon.

School district leaders are seeing increases, too. Creswell High School reported two students tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 2, and a middle school student tested positive Oct. 28, district officials confirmed. 

Creswell district superintendent Mike Johnson said in a letter to parents that none of the students were on campus “at any time during their illness.”

The district is working closely with local health officials, Johnson said, and that “each situation calls for different health response protocols in the county. Each time I am notified of a case, I will follow the OHA protocol and communicate with staff and families, along with any important information,” Johnson said. With distance learning in place, OHA reports schools are not major drivers of COVID-19 spread across Oregon. 

People aged 20-49 accounted for the largest percentage of infection at 56%, despite accounting for 39% of the total population. Persons under 30 accounted for 38% of the cases. People over 80 accounted for 50% of COVID-19 associated deaths and people over 70 accounted for 74% of deaths associated with the illness.

With new direction from Gov. Kate Brown to prioritize children returning to schools in late October, the OHA and the Oregon Department of Education have revised new metrics to encourage in-person learning. 

The metrics now require the county case rate to be under 50 cases per 100,000 people for over 14 days. This allows more flexibility from the 30-case rate per 100,000 for seven days. 

Springfield superintendent Todd Hamilton said at Monday’s school board meeting that Dec. 7 would be the earliest possible reopening date. 

“The impact on students and families is compounding and we’re hearing more impact specifically on students unable to gather with teachers, other students and trusted adults,” Hamilton said. 

As for business impacts, a new Oregon OSHA rule will take effect Nov. 16, with certain parts phased in, and is expected to remain in effect until May 4. It is a continuation of the guidance produced by the OHA and enforced in the workplace by Oregon OSHA, including physical distancing, use of face coverings and sanitation.

The rule will require several measures that many employers have voluntarily implemented – like requiring employers to notify employees of a workplace infection and provide training to workers on how to reduce risks. 

Likewise, employers must formally assess the risk of exposure, develop infection control plans, and address indoor air quality within their current capability.

“We believe compliance with this rule will help reduce the serious threat to workers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “It does so by establishing a clear, practical, and consistent set of measures for employers.”

OHA urges that the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is through staying home when ill, wearing face coverings, physical distancing, and practicing good health hygiene habits. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, cover your coughs and sneezes, and avoid contact with people who have signs of illness.

Reporter Aliya Hall contributed to this report. 



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