PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Health officials reported 550 new cases of COVID-19 in Oregon on Friday — the state’s highest daily case count since the start of the pandemic. Multnomah County also returned to the state’s COVID-19 Watch List, according to the office of Governor Kate Brown.
Of those cases, 135 were reported in Multnomah County. Oregon Health Authority’s Senior Health Advisory Dr. Shimi Sharief said trends that contribute to the higher case count in Multnomah County also play out across the state, namely, get togethers with people outside the immediate household.
“Actually, it’s not that different from the rest of the counties, it’s just that certain trends can be noted to Multnomah County before we see it elsewhere—increased risk for crowding, just with more people living in a smaller amount of space,” said Sharief. “So, it’s actually the same reasons why Multnomah County is experiencing more cases than the rest of the counties in Oregon. It’s all just smaller gatherings, non-household gatherings, people clustering together in groups greater than their household.”
She said that while the state is still concerned about the potential for large outbreaks, what’s most concerning is the day-to-day, week-to-week increase of small clusters of sporadic cases.
“There’s at least 50% or more of each case that’s reported each day, ends up being in sporadic case counts,” said Sharief.
Based on current OHA models, if the trend continues, hospitals could reach capacity by mid-to-late December—another reason why officials say people shouldn’t let their guards down.
“We need to continue to limit the amount of time we’re with others in person and indoors, limit the size of groups we gather in—the smaller being the better,” said Sharief. “And wear a mask anytime we’re with people who are not apart of our households.”
Statewide, the virus claimed three more lives, raising Oregon’s death toll to 649, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Officials said the new deaths were all in Multnomah County and include two women, ages 82 and 79, and a 68-year-old man.
The 550 new confirmed and presumptive cases are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (9), Clackamas (48), Columbia (3), Coos (5), Crook (7), Curry (1), Deschutes (11), Douglas (3), Grant (1), Harney (1), Hood River (4), Jackson (33), Jefferson (1), Josephine (1), Klamath (1), Lane (52), Lincoln (2), Linn (19), Malheur (13), Marion (57), Morrow (1), Multnomah (135), Polk (3), Umatilla (21), Union (1), Wasco (2), Washington (91), and Yamhill (23).
Oregon’s total case count has now risen to 41,348, according to OHA.
County watch list
Multnomah County was first removed from the Watch List on August 28, but was added back as of Friday and remains in Phase 1 of reopening. The county joins three others on the list: Lane, Malheur and Umatilla. Brown said Benton and Clatsop counties have been removed from the list.
Counties are placed on the Watch List when the virus spreads quickly and public health officials cannot trace that spread to specific sources, according to the governor’s office. Once a county is put on the list, it will remain there for a minimum of three weeks, “and until their sporadic case rates drop below these thresholds.”
County leaders shared the following statement on Friday:
“Multnomah County is frustrated that the Oregon Health Authority has again placed Multnomah County on the Watch List of Oregon counties experiencing a high level of sporadic spread of COVID-19. We know that cases are increasing in Multnomah County as they are across the nation.
And we know that cases in our County will increase as we test more people and as we head inside for winter. That’s all the more reason for the state to update its framework to help the Tri-County region become more nimble and consider different approaches.
We believe the Watch List does little to help the County and Metro region address the virus more effectively, or lift the burden on parents and teachers dealing with closed schools or on businesses struggling with a shuttered or limited marketplace. It is part of an early response framework that needs to adapt to months of learning about how best to balance risk of the virus with other long-term health needs of our constituents, especially among Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.
When the County was first placed on the Watch List Aug. 3, we sought the system changes and financial support needed to improve our public health response and population behavior. The State rejected all of these suggestions.
We ask again for the State to: 1) streamline certain parts of COVID19 outbreak reporting, 2) look broadly at the effectiveness of case notification and contact tracing in actually slowing spread, and 3) use their statewide data to inform how business and schools can safely reopen.”
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather