COVID-19 spike crimps county activity
Marion County is among five counties that Gov. Kate Brown placed on a two-week pause of social activities in light of a recent spike in reported positive and presumptive cases of COVID-19.
The governor announced the decision during a Friday, Nov. 6, press conference. The pause will be in effect from Nov. 11 through Nov. 25, restricting or altering a variety of social activities.
On Nov. 5, Oregon Health Authority reported a record 805 cases in Oregon; the following day 770 were reported, continuing the troubling upward trend of recent months. Marion County had 79 and 77 reported cases respectively in each of those days, 83 cases on Nov. 4 and more than 130 cases on Nov. 1. The record was broken again subsequent to Brown's announcement, hitting 988 statewide cases on Nov. 7; 75 in Marion County.
Malheur, Multnomah, Jackson and Umatilla counties are the other four place on pause. Four more counties -- Baker, Clackamas, Union, and Washington -- were added to the list on Nov. 9.
The order sets limits on indoor gatherings including restaurants, recreation, and household social gatherings.
During late October, OHA recorded 3,542 new cases of COVID-19 infection in the state — up 34% from the pervious week's tally of 2,642. It marked the second consecutive week daily case counts set record pandemic highs. The governor's office further noted that the number of newly tested Oregonians rose to 34,591 and the percentage of positive tests rose sharply to 8.4%. Thirty-seven Oregonians were reported to have died in association with COVID-19 — compared to 27 the previous week, and 160 were hospitalized.
Brown further urged federal attention to the issue. "I am also calling on Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package immediately when they return to D.C. — including another $600 weekly benefit in enhanced Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation — due to the increase of COVID-19 cases and the need for rollbacks both here in Oregon and nationwide."
Marion County Board of Commissioners spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said the recent rise in case counts is concerning to the commissioners and local public health leaders, but they feel data should drive decision making that is more sharply aimed at curbing the spread.
In a press release Marion County noted that its COVID-19 data indicates: Restaurants are not a significant source of outbreaks in the county. Cases in restaurants have typically been among staff who socialize together while at work or outside of work.
Most of the spread of COVID-19 is occurring in larger private social gatherings and households. Putting additional burdens on businesses will not prevent these private gatherings from happening and has the potential to increase private social gatherings.
County information indicates that Salem Hospital has sufficient capacity to care for COVID-19 and other patients. Marion County has not seen high levels of pandemic-related emergency department visits or hospitalizations. This is a metric that the county has met even as case counts have increased. This speaks to the severity of the disease in our community.
Marion County supports actions tailored to individual communities based on local data including limiting opportunities for exposure to our loved ones in long term care facilities.
"Marion County is in the middle of recovering from devastating wildfires. Much of the work associated with wildfire recovery must be done in person," Marion County BOC Chair Colm Willis said. "We have maintained appropriate COVID-19 protocols including physical distancing, mask wearing, and temperature screening at meetings and public events."
Governor's office sources said the pause is set to be instituted in counties with case rates above 200 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases over a two-week period for counties with less than 30,000 people, measures that replace the county watch lists instituted in July.
"It is alarming that recent high case rates are not linked to any specific outbreaks, but rather reflective of sporadic community spread," Brown said. "We are seeing in real time how this virus can quickly snowball out of control. This two-week pause is a series of measures and recommendations intended to curb human contact — both through reducing the amount of people we interact with, and the frequency of those encounters. We must stop this virus from spreading. We must preserve our hospital capacity. And we must save lives."OHA planned to examine the COVID-19 metrics on five additional counties — Washington, Baker, Union, Clackamas, and Linn — on Monday to determine whether those counties should be added to the two-week pause.
The measures urge businesses to mandate work from home as much as possible; pause long-term facility visits that take place indoors; reduce restaurant capacity to 50 people, customers and staff, for indoor dining with a maximum party size of six while encouraging take out and outdoor dining; reduce maximum capacity of indoor activities to 50, including gyms, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports, pools and museums; limit social gatherings to your household or no more than six people if the gathering includes people outside the household and reduce the frequency of those gatherings.
Marion County BOC officials said they continue to support data driven protocols such as: increased testing in the count that will enable informed decisions on stemming the spread; rapid tests with same day results as much as possible; immediate quarantine of those who test positive (presumptive) to risk spreading the virus while they are waiting for results (presumptive cases are ones that have tested positive in a public health laboratory and are pending confirmation through the CDC).
"As we approach the holiday season it's important to remember we all have a part to play to keep our community healthy," Willis said. "We encourage everyone to wear face coverings, wash hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, and practice physical distancing when you're around people not from your household.
"Working together we can help keep Marion County safe, strong, and thriving."
Marion County COVID-19 trends
Since the onset of the pandemic in March, Marion County experienced reported spikes of 43 cases on May 9; 51 on June 22; 61 on July 11; 75 on Aug. 15; 86 on Oct. 25; 131 cases on Nov. 1.
For information, visit www.co.marion.or.us/HLT/COVID-19
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