Phase 2 unlikely anytime soon for Clackamas County, health region
The number of new COVID-19 cases which cannot be traced to a known source in Clackamas County hit 53% this week, the highest percentage the county has seen since it began tracking this metric back in July.
According to Dr. Sarah Present, the county's public health officer, there could a few reasons for this spike in sporadic cases, including potential spread caused by gatherings over Labor Day weekend, as well as movement of those forced to evacuate their homes due to wildfires and stay with family, in hotels or in RVs in local parking lots.
Present told the Board of County Commissioners that, while one week doesn't make a trend and therefore shouldn't spark intense concern, she's interested in seeing what happens to this metric the next couple of weeks as the incubation period for both Labor Day and the first week of fire evacuations expires.
"It's hard to predict what happens. Every day is different in this pandemic," Present said.
The other alarming statistic in this week's COVID-19 numbers is Clackamas County showing a 25% increase in the number of new cases over the past seven days, a number which should be down below 5% according to the state's goal metrics.
The news of increased infection numbers comes as Clackamas County and the metro area struggle to stem the spread of coronavirus in hopes of moving into Phase 2 reopening and getting kids back into classrooms.
The county is currently failing to meet four of the six public health indicators laid out by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to move into the next phase of reopening. Those include the 25% increase in the number of new cases, an upward trend in positive tests of 5.9%, only 94% of positive cases followed up on in 24 hours and sporadic cases 53%.
Despite poor performance individually, the health region of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties is only failing to meet two of the six indicators — trend in percent of positive tests (up 6.1%) and percent of cases not traced to a known source (43%).
Present told the county commissioners that one highlight of this week's data is that Clackamas County's weekly case rate remains under 30 per 100,000 population for the third week in a row.
"That is one of the major metrics that needs to be met for the exception for kindergarten through third grade to have in-person learning," Present said. "The percent positivity is also supposed to be under 5%, but we just got an alert from the Oregon Department of Education — they are going to suspend that metric for the month of September due to all of the impacts of wildfires, and air quality."
That means that Clackamas County does currently have schools that are eligible to open for K-3 in-person learning, according to Present, and the county's public health division and emergency operations center are working with those schools that do want to do that in order to make sure they meet all the state's criteria.
Other good news, Present said, is that the county's daily case count remains steady, but pauses in testing over the past two weeks cause some fluctuation of those numbers in the coming week. She's hoping that those fluctuations don't bump the county up over the 30 per 100,000 threshold.
She added that while the county is showing a decrease in the number of known outbreaks, in and outside the workplace, the increase in sporadic cases is worrisome.
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