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A model by University of Washington researchers forecast that Oregon's hospital system will be capable of handling the flow of patients with the novel coronavirus.

PMG PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Walkers stroll along the waterfront at Tom McCall Park in a nearly empty downtown Portland.The unprecedented disruptions affecting millions of Oregonians appear to be reducing the transmission of the novel coronavirus between 50% and 70%, according to a new analysis released Wednesday by state health officials, the first positive sign that social distancing is helping in Oregon.

"It appears that staying home to save lives is working," said Dean Sidelinger, Oregon's state epidemiologist.

The figures are only planning estimates and do not signal that Oregon has beaten the coronavirus. Loosening restrictions would lead to a resurgence in cases in as little as a week. The state still faces major challenges, including the risk that front-line health care workers will continue contracting the virus. At least 30 in the Portland metro area have tested positive.

Both the research released Wednesday and another model by University of Washington researchers forecast that Oregon's hospital system will be capable of handling the flow of patients with the novel coronavirus, making the state a potential bright spot in the United States — if residents continue to stay home.

pmgThe model that Oregon is using estimates 1,750 Oregonians have contracted the coronavirus; with a range possible between 1,200 and 3,000 actual cases. As of Wednesday, 736 people had tested positive and 19 have died.

Sidelinger said the figures, which come from the Institute for Disease Modeling in Washington, use specific information about the cases in Oregon — when symptoms presented, whether they were hospitalized — as well as how many contacts each infected person is estimated to have. The researchers also draw on data tracked by Facebook showing reductions in movement as restrictions have been adopted. Facebook shares aggregate information with researchers based on people using its app with location tracking enabled.

This Oregonian/OregonLive story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

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