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'We're treading water:' Modeling says growth rate leveled off despite recent record death toll - but could grow again.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown in recent weeks has announced new steps to curb the growth of coronavirus, though some say they don't go far enough.Despite records in new deaths and new daily case totals last month, a new state report says Oregon's curve of coronavirus growth appears to have flattened since then.

The latest modeling released by the Oregon Health Authority says the transmission rate of the virus in Oregon has dropped from where it was a month ago.

On July 10, the state's modelers reported that the virus' reproduction rate had grown to where each case of coronavirus was leading to 1.4 additional people infected. Two weeks ago, the state's estimated reproduction number dropped to 1.15, and on Friday, Aug. 7, the state reported that the number is now "currently about 1.0."

If that figure remains steady, the estimated number of daily new infections should continue at about 1,000 cases, the report said. That figure includes infections not discovered and reported through testing.

In the last month, the state has topped daily records for new daily reported cases on several occasions, reporting more than 400 on July 16, July 19 and July 30. Friday's report brought an additional 423 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases to Oregon.

The number of new deaths per day in Oregon attributed to COVID-19 grew to record levels as well, reaching nine on July 25 and 14 on July 28, and nine again today, Aug. 7.

Click here to read the full report.

"This leveling off of cases is good news," Oregon state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said in a press conference. But he cited "warning signs" that suggest the transmission rate could start growing again, including a growth in the rate of coronavirus tests that come back positive. He described the situation as an "uneasy balance ... we're treading water."

Gov. Kate Brown said the report is a "sign of progress" but said new safety measures will be coming, including guidelines for wearing masks in office settings. She cited stepped-up enforcement of social distancing by state agencies, such as Oregon OSHA, and other steps as contributing to the apparent good news.

Brown said she hopes as many schools as possible open for in-person learning, especially for earlier grades. She urged people to not let up on physically distancing from other people, saying, "We are truly in this for the long haul."

She expressed confidence that the state would not need to close bars but said "further restrictions are always on the table."

The state report notes that there is a two-week delay between infections and onset, and cites the number of severe cases as the most important indicator.

"The current calibration provides evidence that transmission increased substantially during

May, then decreased somewhat in late June and early July."

The state posts coronavirus projections, daily updates, press releases and reports on this web page.

This article will be updated and expanded later today.


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