SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Health officials say Oregon has surpassed 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday reported 346 new confirmed and presumptive cases, bringing the state’s case tally to 40,135. The death toll is 633.
When Gov. Kate Brown first declared a state of emergency, due to COVID-19 in Oregon in early March, there were 14 cases in the state.
Since then cases have risen, many surrounding holiday celebrations, social gatherings and workplace outbreaks.
“Our main message – besides the usual to keep distance, restrict gatherings etc. – is that we are still seeing social gatherings as a driver of the community spread,” Tim Heider, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, told The Associated Press.
“We’re really asking people to think hard about their holiday celebrations this year, especially as we move indoors for the fall and winter.”
Oregon’s most recent overall positive testing rate is 6.4 percent.
“Oregon still has a rate of positivity that’s below the national rate,” Heider said. “But, it’s higher than we need to see consistently in order to consider opening schools.”
During the week of Oct. 5 through Oct. 11, the most recent data reported, the state recorded an 18% increase in cases from the previous week.
In the month of October, Oregon reached grim milestones including the state’s largest daily case count since the start of the pandemic — 484 new cases — and surpassing 600 deaths from COVID-19.
During last week’s update on COVID-19 in Oregon, Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist, said he is “concerned about the growth in cases.”
Charles Boyle, the deputy communications director for Gov. Brown’s office, said Tuesday that the “growth in the spread of COVID-19 is incredibly concerning.”
At the current rate of transmission, Oregon Health Authority officials project that new infections will increase substantially to 570 new reported cases a day and 40 hospitalizations.
Even if transmission decreases by 10 percentage points, the health authority predicts 290 daily reported cases and 20 hospitalizations.
The counties in Oregon with the highest number of new cases Tuesday were Multnomah — with 101 cases — Washington and Marion counties.
Currently, the counties with the highest positivity rate are Malheur (23%), Morrow (21%) and Umatilla (17%), based on data on the Oregon Health Authority’s website.
On Monday, the health authority announced that face covering requirements were being expanded to include all private and public workplaces, including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, work spaces, outdoor markets, street fairs, private career schools and public and private colleges and universities.
During the past few months, Brown said she has discussed implementing travel restrictions and stricter safety measures if need be. The health authority “consults constantly” with the governor’s office.
Boyle said that “if case counts continue to rise, all options are on the table to save lives and keep Oregonians healthy and safe.”
Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.