Oregon officials: Exponential coronavirus increases likely ahead
A new state report says Oregonians face a likely exponential increase in transmission of coronavirus over the coming weeks.
The new modeling report released Friday, June 26, diverges from state officials' earlier efforts to downplay a boost in reported new coronavirus cases. Those cases have hit a series of new highs since June 7, peaking at 278 on Tuesday, June 16.
In the past, officials attributed the jump to increased testing. However, the report now says that transmission of the virus appears to have grown significantly since May 15, when Gov. Kate Brown began reopening the state.
The report offers three projections, but says its optimistic scenario —that the surge will level off — is "likely implausible," meaning that its other two scenarios are more likely.
"Hospital capacity could be overwhelmed this summer if the surge continues," state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said in a press conference on Friday morning, June 26.
Sidelinger called the new modeling "troubling" and said the state is activating additional contact tracers to try to slow the spread of disease. He urged Oregonians to redouble their social distancing efforts.
In its moderate scenario, the report says that the increases are likely to continue, with new hospitalizations tripling by Thursday, July 16, from about eight per day to 27 per day.
In its pessimistic scenario, the report says, the new hospitalizations would jump by July 16 from eight per day to 82 per day.
The report essentially finds that a previous version of the state's modeling, released in a report on June 10, proved overly optimistic. The numbers since then have shown its most pessimistic scenario at that time was closest to the truth.
For all its new pessimism, the modeling done by the state does have limitations, and the report acknowledges some major ones that could contribute to inaccuracy.
•The model does not account for potential "super-spreader events such as recent Union County church outbreak with more than 200 cases.
•It does not account for the complex nature of disease spread, or account for differences in transmission among specific populations, such as for communities of color, particular types of workers or group living situations.
•It does not account for cases of infected people entering the state.
•It does not account for the fact that new cases are disproportionately being found among younger Oregonians. It's unclear to what extent the disease will spread from younger people to more vulnerable older Oregonians.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.