SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The transmission rate of COVID-19 continues to increase as Oregon health officials announced an additional 418 new confirmed cases Friday and six additional deaths.
Also, Gov. Kate Brown announced that Lane County has been added to the County Watch List because of increasing cases.
At the current rate of transmission, Oregon Health Authority officials project that new infections will increase “substantially” to 570 new reported cases a day and 40 hospitalizations.
For six weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 cases were in a downward trend. However, since mid-September, officials warned that numbers were again increasing at an alarming rate.
During the week of Oct. 5 through Oct. 11, the state recorded an 18% increase in cases from the previous week. During that week Oregon's positivity rate was 6.4%.
In fact, last week the Oregon Health Authority reported the state’s largest daily case count since the start of the pandemic — 484 new cases. This week Oregon marked a grim milestone as the state surpassed 600 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“We won’t be able to prevent more infections, and get more schools and businesses open in Oregon, until more people act with urgency and avoid the social super-spreader gatherings that have driven COVID-19 transmission and disease in Oregon,” Patrick Allen, director of the health authority, said last week.
Officials say that the vast change in transmission rate from one month to another shows how “fragile” the situation is in Oregon.
Friday's numbers bring the state’s case tally to 38,935 and the number of deaths to 617, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
If transmission increases by 5 percentage points, the Oregon Health Authority predicts that there will be 740 new reported cases in the state a day.
Even if transmission decreases by 10 percentage points, the health authority predicts 290 daily reported cases and 20 hospitalizations.
Officials have attributed the rise in cases to Labor Day gatherings, the return of college students to campus, the interruption of testing during recent wildfires in Oregon and recent workplace outbreaks.
Brown said these ways of transmission are especially true for Lane County, which was added to the state's County Watch List after an increase in cases.
“Social gatherings, like off-campus parties, are incredibly dangerous and spread this disease," Brown said. "Let me be clear, though: it will take the entire county working together to bring these COVID-19 numbers under control. Once COVID-19 is spreading in the community, small family get-togethers can also lead to dozens of infections.”
Currently there are five counties on the watch list — Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla.
A county is placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly. The Oregon Health Authority will increase motoring and communication with the county as well as deploying additional assistance and resources.
“The Watch List signifies caution. When we are able to address community spread early on, the more likely we are to be successful in curbing that spread," Brown said. “While OHA offers support and resources to help county officials prevent further case spikes, it remains up to all community members to do their part.”
Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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