SALEM, Ore. — Oregon health officials urged people Friday to limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than 10 people during the next three weeks as coronavirus cases in the state surge and reveal a “troubling” trend of exponential growth.
New projections by the Oregon Health Authority predict that if transmission of COVID-19 continues at the current pace, the estimated number of new daily, confirmed infections could reach anywhere from 1,100 to 3,600.
“Given these projections and the prognosis that they represent for our citizens, we are calling on Oregonians to take action, to help us bring down the spread of COVID-19 and get it under control so we can again bend the curve back down,” said Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority.
Oregon smashed its previous daily record for confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday with a 389 new diagnoses and six deaths.
The case count on Friday added 275 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, bringing total cases statewide to 11,454. At least 232 people have died.
“If we don’t see dramatic changes in our infection rates, our trends will push Oregon into a very worrying situation,” Allen said.
Even at the current rate of daily cases, health officials predict that Oregon will still have exponential growth of COVID-19.
“Today’s projections show that we have reached a point where even if we saw a 10% reduction from current rates, we’d continue to see increases in case numbers,” said Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist. “In essence, we are seeing the disease spreading more and more quickly.”
In addition, at this rate, daily hospitalizations could increase from 17 to 49 people during the coming weeks.
Health officials said social gatherings are driving the increase in cases, not business reopenings — specifically pointing out cases linked to bachelor and bachelorette parties, multi-household gatherings and exercise classes.
Allen said in these types of situations people may feel safe and “let their guard down,” but it could actually lead to a person becoming infected.
“There are many people indoors that are talking and laughing with friends” —which are perfectly normal behaviors, Allen said, “but behaviors that are more risky now because the spread of COVID.”
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.