Public health officials deeply concerned about heading to 'extreme risk' by May 7 if trends continue

SCREENSHOT - ZOOM - Clackamas County is likely headed toward being elevated to 'extreme risk' by the week of May 7 if trends in case numbers, test positivity and hospitalizations continue on their current path. New risk levels for COVID-19 transmission handed down by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority this week saw Clackamas County remaining at "high risk" despite elevated numbers.

Philip Mason-JoynerCurrently, Clackamas County's case rate is at 212.3 cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity of 6.8%. The reason the county remains at "high risk" is due to an update to the process the state is using to assess risk which takes statewide hospital capacity into consideration. This week, the state hasn't crossed the threshold of more than 200 beds occupied by COVID-19 positive patients on any single day.

"It is concerning that our case counts continue to increase," said Philip Mason-Joyner, county public health director. "We're seeing more community spread and limited vaccine supply still, so we're working really hard at public health. Our focus is to get the vaccine into arms for everyone who wants it."

Mason-Joyner told county commissioners Thursday, April 22, that despite everyone age 16 and older now being eligible, supply within Clackamas County remains scarce. But he hopes that in the coming weeks and months that will change.

Clackamas County has counted 157,219 fully vaccinated residents with a total of 253,986 doses administered. Only about 37% of the county's total population has been fully vaccinated. Another mass vaccination clinic is set to administer 2,000 more doses daily at the Clackamas Town Center mall from Friday, April 23-Monday, April 26.

Mason-Joyner is concerned that rising hospitalizations and case counts will move Clackamas County into the "extreme risk" category.

That potential movement wouldn't be put into effect until Friday, May 7, if trends continue the way they are headed, he said. If the county were moved to "extreme risk" that would mean a return to much tighter restrictions on Clackamas County's economic activity.

"The hard part is we aren't able to vaccine as quickly as we can to slow down this increase, so we need the county's help," Mason-Joyner said. "As we continue to reopen and loosen restrictions, we want to encourage people to stay home if they're sick or exposed, continue to follow precautions and take their gatherings outside if you can."

According to Mason-Joyner, people ages 20-50 are driving this increase, and the county is working on pushing messaging for those populations to continue with the precautions the county, state and federal health officials have been preaching for more than a year.

The county is also urging residents to take part in contact tracing. Last week the county was unable to reach approximately 40% of those they tried to contact, as many were not responding or they refused to participate.

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