Pandemic spreads via gatherings
Social gatherings have been a significant source of the spreading of positive COVID-19 cases, especially the sporadic ones that put Marion County on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's Watch List recently.
Marion, Hood River and Multnomah counties were added to the list in late July after they reached a threshold of 50 or more sporadic cases per 100,000 people within a two-week period. Sporadic cases are those that cannot be traced to a specific link, such as an outbreak, household or worksite.
Marion County had 175 cases over a two-week period that could not be traced to a link.
There currently are nine Oregon counties on the list; Brown announced Aug. 6 that Lake County was removed from the list. Counties placed on the list are required to remain on it for a minimum of three weeks and until their sporadic case rates drop below threshold levels.
Marion County Health and Human Services Public Health Director Katrina Rothenberger asked the county's epidemiologist to investigate the sporadic cases, and it was discovered that gatherings were the primary source, including family reunions, a bachelorette party, funeral, family potluck, birthday party and baptism.
"Social gatherings are still a risk, and we just really want to encourage everyone to make sure they take those safety precautions when gathering with friends and family," Rothenberger said. "Those include wearing face coverings, staying outdoors if possible, staying home if you are sick, washing hands and limiting the duration of gatherings or events."
Rothenberger also reported that Marion County's positive test rate is around 8.4%, and its overall positive testings have been slowly declining: 267 two weeks ago; 256 the ensuing week and 250 for the most recently reported week.
Woodburn's 97071 ZIP code continues to register the highest number and percentage of cases in the county. Marion County's COVID-19 dashboard on Friday revealed that Woodburn has 602 of the county's 2,837 total cases, including 32 new cases reported Aug. 6-7, for an incidence rate (IR) of 2,043.4 per 100,000.
The next highest is Central Salem (97301) with a total of 435 cases, 18 new, and an IR of 784.5. Brooks (97305) was third with 402, 12 and 922.2 respectively. Gervais (97026) has a high IR at 2031.8 with 92 total cases, but only two new ones.
The governor's office noted that the watch list allows the state to prioritize resources and assistance to counties that are seeing the broadest community spread of COVID-19. When a county is placed on the list, the Oregon Health Authority increases monitoring and communication, and deploys additional technical assistance and resources, such as epidemiological support, case investigation and contact tracing help.
Counties currently on the watch list are Baker, Hood River, Jefferson, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Umatilla and Wasco.
"I want to remind all Oregonians that this disease is something that, for the time being, we must learn to live with," Brown said. "This means, your continued work to protect yourselves and others — wearing a face covering, watching your distance and washing your hands — is of the utmost importance."
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