State authorities expand restrictions in face of estimates that coronavirus could infect 75,000 Oregonians

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From playgrounds to prisons, Oregon is facing ever-expanding steps to get ahead of the novel coronavirus that state officials estimate could infect 75,000 people in a matter of weeks.

The biggest jolt to the state came Thursday night as Gov. Kate Brown ordered every public school in Oregon closed effective Monday, March 16, sending home 583,000 students and their teachers and other school employees. Students aren’t expected to return to classrooms until Wednesday, April 1, and even then they will are likely to face days without assemblies, field trips or concerts.

State officials were working up plans to sustain school-cooked meals for the thousands of children from low-income families who get breakfast and lunch at no or little cost from schools.

The decision to close schools came just five days after the state told schools to take steps to prevent the disease spread but otherwise maintain normal class operations.

“The guidance recommends against closing schools,” the Oregon Health Authority said in its Sunday statement.

Brown contradicted that guidance as one school district after another on Thursday moved to shut down their own schools, a growing awareness that COVID-19 is a public health threat that government officials say justifies extraordinary measures and help from every citizen in the state. Brown said it was proving “impossible” for schools to function normally.