SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Health Authority reported 805 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, shattering the state’s previous daily record of 600.
Officials described the increased spread of COVID-19 in the state as “unprecedented” and occurring “more rapidly” than they had hoped.
“Let me be clear, we cannot allow this disease to continue to spread so rapidly in our communities. Lives are at stake,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices to help each other throughout this pandemic, which is why Oregon has done relatively better than many other states at containing COVID-19. We can’t let up now. I will take further action to stop the spread of COVID-19, and I need Oregonians to continue to do their part as well.”
In addition, health officials said the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests last week was 8.5%.
“All this data leads us to conclude that Oregonians are circulating more in their communities and letting their guard down more and doing so as the weather turns colder, and they are spending more time indoors,” said Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist.
Brown attributed a significant amount of the increase in cases to indoor social gatherings.
“Our data on the cases reported today is incomplete, as the case investigations are in process. But the case data from the past several days and weeks continue to show that the increased spread is driven through small informal gatherings and not due to large workplace or other outbreaks,” Sidelinger said. “Oregon’s sporadic cases, those not traced to a source, are also increasing.”
In mid-October, the health authority released modeling that predicted if transmission continued at the current level at the time, then by Nov. 5 the number of new daily infections would increase from 1,300 to 2,200 and that 570 cases would be diagnosed daily.
Within the first four days of November, Oregon was averaging about 551 new cases a day.
In addition, based on the Oregon Health Authorities mid-October predictions the number of new hospitalizations related to COVID-19 would increase to 40 a day.
While COVID-19 related hospitalizations only increased by 13 patients from Wednesday, there are 204 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Oregon, a record number according to the Oregon Health Authority’s dashboard. The previous record, outside the month of November, was 168 patients in July.
Of the COVID-19 patients most recently listed, 56 people were in intensive care units and 25 people were on ventilators.
Since the start of the pandemic more than 47,800 Oregonians have had COVID-19. The death toll is 710.
Multnomah County, the state’s most populous county and home to Portland, reported 196 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. Washington County also had a triple digit amount of cases — 134.
Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority announced that they would be holding a press conference Friday to talk about Oregon’s COVID-19 situation.
In the past Brown has discussed more stringent measures that could include travel restrictions or closing the doors of businesses again. However health officials said at the end of October that the current focus is educating Oregonians the necessity of physically distancing, wearing a mask and limiting social gatherings ahead of the holiday season.
In addition, health officials are urging people to get a flu vaccine in order to avoid a “twindemic.”
“We need to lessen the dual threat of flu and COVID-19 spreading at the same time,” said Paul Cieslak, public health physician at the Oregon Health Authority. “A ‘twindemic’ of two potentially fatal viruses circulating at the same time could burden the state’s health care system and result in many illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.”
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.