Oregon snaps three-day streak of no new reported COVID-19 deaths
Oregon had reported no new deaths from COVID-19 for three straight days. But on Monday, May 18, the Oregon Health Authority announced a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, increasing the state's official death toll from the disease to 138.
The man who died was a 69-year-old resident of Marion County. He tested positive for the coronavirus at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin on Saturday, May 16, and died the same day, officials said. He had unspecified underlying medical conditions.
The case count increased by 64, with 62 cases confirmed by positive test results and two more considered presumptive. That brings Oregon's official total to 3,687, although public health experts say the official count is likely well below the actual number of people who have been infected with the coronavirus in Oregon.
Continuing a weeks-long pattern, the disproportionate share of new cases are in three counties that have been the hardest hit by the virus:
• Marion County, which added 16 cases.
• Multnomah County, which reported 12 new cases.
• Washington County — where the first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was detected in late February — with 10 new cases.
Clackamas, Deschutes and Umatilla counties each reported five new cases in Monday's update. Benton County reported three, Malheur and Yamhill counties each reported two, and Clatsop, Jackson, Lane and Union counties each added one to their case totals.
Late last week, state officials announced they approved 31 of Oregon's 36 counties for a limited "reopening," loosening some restrictions on shops, restaurants and the size of gatherings.
In all counties, certain types of retailers were also given the go-ahead to resume some operations with social distancing policies in place.
Marion and Polk counties, covering the Salem area and nearby communities, applied for a Phase 1 reopening as well. However, the Oregon Health Authority said they did not meet the criteria for reopening and rejected the application.
In the Portland area, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties have yet to apply for reopening. County leaders say there is still work to be done before they are confident they can meet the state's guidelines — particularly around contact tracing, a practice that officials can use to selectively contact, test and isolate people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Tracing is labor-intensive, and the Portland-area counties say that with their larger populations and interconnected economies, they need more time to scale up.
State officials and public health experts have warned that even a careful reopening will likely lead to a rise in new cases and deaths. They stress the importance of maintaining social distancing measures, even as Oregon's economy restarts, to reduce viral transmission.
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.