By Associated Press • 

Oregon governor: state will help find childcare for children of frontline medical workers, first responders

Of The Associated Press

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that the state will help find childcare for the children of frontline medical workers and first responders as schools statewide are closed for two weeks to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Oregon also obtained a federal waiver Friday to allow districts to serve free and reduced-price lunches to lower-income students outside a school setting, at places such as bus stops, churches and community centers.

About half of the 580,000 children in Oregon affected by the two-week closure of all school statewide receive meal subsidies, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said. School officials are developing take-out style meals that can be eaten at home and handed out in batches instead of hot meals that are served in schools, he said.

As for childcare for doctors and nurses, Brown equated it to a wartime effort to make medical workers available.

“I would put this as a World War II-capacity daycare for our public health workers because we’re going to need every single body we can get," she said. “These are unprecedented times.”

Oregon schools will close Monday and remain closed until April 1. Oregon students already have spring break for one of those weeks.

Oregon has 30 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including eight that have been diagnosed in the past two days among residents of a veterans’ nursing home in the town of Lebanon, about 80 miles south of Portland.

There could be 150 to 250 cases that haven't been diagnosed, and it could grow to over 75,000 cases by mid-May unless action is taken, state health officer and epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within a few weeks

Several school districts told Brown the coronavirus pandemic has brought them to the “breaking point" because of staffing issues involving older staff or those with health concerns, Brown said. About 40% of substitutes in the Portland Public Schools are over the age of 60, making them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, and support staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers also skew older and should be self-quarantining, she said.

She stressed that closing the schools would not stop the coronavirus from spreading and urged families not to leave their children in the care of older adults who are more vulnerable to the illness.

“I am reluctant to increase the burden on families who are already struggling to adapt to, and stay healthy, during this crisis,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, we are left with little choice.”




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