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Case counts are increasing as the state enters a two-week 'freeze' mandated by Gov. Kate Brown.

A third COVID-19 death was reported in Columbia County on Saturday, Nov. 21. The county also saw its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases last week, with 20 new confirmed and presumptive cases announced Friday, Nov. 20.

The Columbia County resident was the state's 815th COVID-19 death. She was a 75-year-old woman who tested positive Oct. 23 and died Nov. 19 at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. She had underlying medical conditions, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Columbia County's second COVID-19 death was a 73-year-old woman who tested positive Sept. 23 and died Oct. 6 at her residence. She also had underlying medical conditions.

The county's first COVID-19 death was a 55-year-old man who tested positive Aug. 7 and died Aug. 9 at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas County. The presence of underlying conditions was still being confirmed when his death was announced, but was confirmed a month later.

As of Nov. 22, 422 cases of COVID-19 had been identified in Columbia County since March.

The county had reported 399 cases as of Nov. 19, with 55 cases still currently infectious. Of those 399 cases, 22 required hospitalization.

The state has released new case counts for each county each day, but the numbers for Columbia County have not consistently matched the total case counts by county also released by the state. On Sept. 19, the state had reported a total of 150 cases in Columbia County. By Nov. 22, the state's daily totals added up to 436 total cases in the county. However, the state said that the county had just 422 cases as of Nov. 22, meaning 14 fewer cases.

As of press time, OHA had not responded to questions about what caused the discrepancies.

As schools and businesses struggle to plan for reopening, unreliable data makes it harder to see trends and whether counties are meeting reopening metrics.

In the first two weeks of November, 8.9% of COVID-19 tests for Columbia County residents came back positive. That is more than double the test positivity rate for the two weeks prior, which was 3.8%, according to the state's school metric website.

"That's with roughly the same number of residents being tested each week. It's gone up. So that indicates the virus is spreading," Columbia County Public Health Director Michael Paul told county commissioners Friday, Nov. 20.

"Our public health workers, our public health systems, our health care systems are strained," Paul said. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients are increasing statewide. Columbia County doesn't have a hospital, meaning residents who require hospitalization are sent to neighboring counties where COVID-19 rates also are increasing.

"It's not too late for people to cancel their holiday plans," Paul said Nov. 20.

"We're at the point where we're asking community members who have tested positive to reach out to their close contacts and tell them themselves that they have been exposed to COVID and ask them to stay home for 14 days. We are experiencing a surge, and we will try to reach everyone, but we have so many cases that we cannot meet that 24-hour mark for every case," Paul said.


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