Clackamas County's performance is improving on metrics set by the state for reopening its economy following closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but work still remains before it can enter Phase 2, both individually and as a part of the metro region.
During the board of commissioners meeting Thursday, July 31, Nancy Bush, county incident commander, reported that Clackamas County is still not meeting just one of the six indicators laid out by Brown and the Oregon Health Authority: a percentage of cases not traced to a known source under 30%.
Currently, 54% of all cases in Clackamas County cannot be traced to a known source. As of Thursday evening, Clackamas County's numbers included 1,339 positive cases, up 56 since Monday, July 27; 36 deaths, up two; and 37,017 negative tests.
As a health region, the metro area is now not meeting just two of the six criteria, which is an improvement over the previous several weeks.
With their numbers combined, the metro counties are still failing to meet rquirements on the percentage of cases not traced to a known source — which currently sits at 50% — as well as the percentage of cases followed up on within 24 hours above 95%, which currently sits at 81%.
"Obviously, we're going in the right direction, not only as a county, but also here in the region," Bush told the commissioners. "But there's still a lot of concern about those not traced to a known source, and our public health staff continues to work on that."
According to Bush, training is ongoing for county public health staff to be as effective as possible in contact tracing new cases, and they continue to get better each week.
Commissioner Paul Savas for the second time raised the idea of having everyone who gets tested for COVID-19 fill out a sheet that breaks down everyone with whom they've had contact in the past several days as a precautionary step to make the contact tracing process easier.
"I've gotten a lot of feedback on that, and a lot of people think it's a pretty logical, constructive idea," Savas said. "Every day that goes by, people's memories get shorter and shorter, and if it's seven to 10 days and then they're asked for their contacts, that's seven to 10 days they could be jotting down their contacts. It could even be a flyer we hand out."
According to Bush, there's nothing legally that would restrict the county from instructing test providers to hang out a contact tracing form when one is administered a test for COVID-19. The barrier is actually whether or not those being tested would be willing to give out that information at that time.
Savas also raised concern that Brown and the Oregon Health Authority are looking at another indicator not shown on the county-by-county reopening criteria dashboard in the discussion around reopening schools this fall — the number of cases per capita. Brown recently announced that schools won't resume until at least Nov. 5, but officials statewide, including in Clackamas County, are skeptical that students will be back in the classroom by that date.
Bush speculated that the state might be coming out with another dashboard showing indicators for school buildings to reopen.
Currently, the state's dashboard shows the number of cases per 10,000 residents, at which Clackamas County currently sits in the middle third of all Oregon counties with a rate of 31.6.
"Regardless of where you are in the back-to-school argument, people are going to want to look at that metric," Savas said.
Commissioner Sonya Fischer said she's worried about disparities in the education system should kids not be in classrooms this fall, as well as concern over parents who cannot stay at home due to their job despite their kids not being in school.
Bush said those conversations are taking place with school administrations daily, and they don't have any tangible answers yet.
"I'd like to know what actual steps we can take to support families. ... Day care is very expensive, and especially day care in a COVID world," she said. "It kind of comes back to the fact that Clackamas County didn't get a direct allocation of dollars, which is so frustrating to me, because if we did, we could put aside emergency funds to help provide child care for families in the fall."
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