The latest rise in COVID-19 infections in Oregon has peaked and is heading down, though Central Oregon continues to have some of the top case numbers and infection rates in the state.
The Oregon Health Authority released the weekly COVID-19 risk level numbers late Monday morning. The official announcement on any changes in risk levels — and restrictions in each county — will not be announced by Gov. Kate Brown until Tuesday, May 11.
But some of the numbers showed clear indicators of what to expect. Overall, they show a slight decline COVID-19 cases during the past two weeks, compared to last week's report. The state reported 10,755 new cases over the two-week period, which equals 252 cases per 100,000 residents. Both are slight declines over the previous period.
The rate of positive cases remains at 6.4% — state officials say anything above 5% has the potential to lead to a rebound of cases.
Several counties had case rates that would in the past have pushed them into the extreme risk category. For large counties, an infection rate of more than 200 per 100,000 people would place them in the most restrictive of the state's four risk level tiers.
But Brown introduced a new metric last month that keeps counties from the harshest limits, including a ban on indoor dining.
Counties will not be put in the extreme risk level regardless of their own COVID-19 numbers if the state overall has under 300 hospitalizations for COVID-19. After that threshold is crossed, an increase of 15% has to be met to hit the extreme risk level.
As of Monday, May 10, the Oregon Health Authority reported 324 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, a slight reduction from the last period. Under the rules, those numbers mean no counties will be put in extreme risk level when the new limits are announced Tuesday and go into effect May 14.
The new numbers show Central Oregon has among the highest levels of infection and rates. Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties are well above the 200 infections per 100,000 mark. But because of the statewide metric requirement, they will almost certainly stay in the high risk limit level, the second more restrictive of the state's four tiers.
Deschutes County reported 1,069 COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, with the cases per 10,000 rising to 542.6. Also up is the positive test rate, which at 9% is seen by health officials as a figure that could lead to future exponential growth of cases. Crook County reported 546 cases per 100,000, a slight increase. But its test positivity rate fell to 8.6% from 9%. While still high, the rate is trending in the right direction. Jefferson County also saw its rate per 100,000 rise to 315.3 cases per 100,000, but its positive test rate fell to 8.5% from 8.9%.
The biggest ongoing impact is in the Portland tri-county area. Multnomah County showed a small drop in cases, cases in Clackamas rose and Washington County's metrics showed mixed results. But all were above 200 cases-per-100,000, the rate that in other circumstances would have them all in extreme risk level. They will likely remain at high risk level for another two weeks.
In the northwest, both Clatsop and Tillamook counties saw overall cases decline.
Clatsop dropped to 52 cases and a per 100,000 people rate of 131.8. The positive infection rate fell to 5.1%, just .1% above the state's maximum target rate of 5%, which officials say means infections are unlikely to spread rapidly. Tillamook saw a drop in cases and rates that would likely maintain the status quo in terms of restrictions in the county.
Columbia County saw a drop in cases and rates, but remains in what would normally be the extreme risk category were it not for the statewide hospitalization waiver.
Yamhill County's metrics remained largely unchanged, with numbers that would likely qualify it for extreme risk, but will keep it in the high risk because of the waiver.
Large counties showing falling rates of various sizes include Marion and Lane counties. Lincoln county dropped below 100 cases per 100,000.
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.