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Coronavirus in Oregon (April 16): School closures could add up to staggering learning loss, researchers say

The academic toll from coronavirus school shutdowns could take years to remedy, new research conducted in Portland shows.

Students in Oregon and across the U.S. are likely to start school in the fall equipped with only about 70% of expected gains in reading and writing skills and 50% or less of expected math skills.

Gov. Kate Brown ordered schools to close statewide one month ago. Latest Portland News Schools have started delivering distance learning classes. But the potential education loss remains profound.

“This is the longest break in an education that any kid who has started kindergarten has experienced” in the history of modern U.S. education, said Chris Minnich, the chief executive of Portland-based testing outfit NWEA, which performed the research.

Here are more developments to know Thursday:

HOUSING: Despite the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, the vast majority of renters in the Portland area and across the country managed to pay their April housing bills, data from housing groups show.



RESPONSE: Several states have required masks to enter businesses. Oregon has not. State officials have so far allowed wearing masks to remain voluntary.

CASES: More than 1,660 people in Oregon have contracted the coronavirus, and 58 have died, according to the latest update issued by state officials. One Oregon coronavirus patient, a Douglas County nurse, received a possible life-saving plasma donation as he fights COVID-19.

JOBS: Antiquated computer systems could cost Oregon more than $100 million in federal money earmarked for workers laid off by the coronavirus pandemic – workers who, in some cases, are younger than the computer systems themselves. State officials had said the old technology prevents them from waiving a mandatory one-week waiting period for benefits. But Oregon’s entire Congressional delegation urged the governor to waive the waiting period.


UNEMPLOYMENT: The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week, Press Release Distribution Service the government reported Thursday. Roughly 22 million have sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.

BUSINESS: Dozens of soon-to-open businesses in Portland have been placed on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those businesses had already hired staff and purchased inventory. Sweeping shutdown orders cut customers -- and traffic. Oregon transportation officials said recent traffic counts across the state show the obvious: 

LAW: State corrections officials said up to 6,000 prison inmates could face release to allow social distancing. But Gov. Kate Brown ruled out a mass release. Attorneys say inmates in the federal prison in Sheridan are overwhelmed by the coronavirus lockdown.

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