Oregon Capital Bureau
SALEM — The latest rise in COVID-19 infections in Oregon has peaked and is heading down, though Central Oregon continues to have some of the top case numbers and infection rates in the state.
The Oregon Health Authority released the weekly COVID-19 risk level numbers late Monday morning. The official announcement on any changes in risk levels — and restrictions in each county — will not be announced by Gov. Kate Brown until Tuesday.
But some of the numbers showed clear indicators of what to expect.
Overall, they show a slight decline in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, compared to last week’s report.
The state reported 10,755 new cases over the two-week period, which equals 252 cases per 100,000 residents. Both are slight declines over the previous period.
The rate of positive cases remains at 6.4% — state officials say anything above 5% has the potential to lead to a rebound of cases.
Several counties had case rates that would in the past have pushed them into the extreme risk category. For large counties, an infection rate of more than 200 per 100,000 people would place them in the most restrictive of the state’s four risk level tiers.
But Brown introduced a new metric last month that keeps counties from the harshest limits, including a ban on indoor dining.
Counties will not be put in the extreme risk level regardless of their own COVID-19 numbers if the state overall has under 300 hospitalizations for COVID-19. After that threshold is crossed, an increase of 15% has to be met to hit the extreme risk level.
As of Monday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 324 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, a slight reduction over the last period.
Under the rules, those numbers mean no counties will be put in extreme risk level when the new limits announced Tuesday go into effect May 14.
According to county health officials, Polk County will stay under the high risk category, in spite of a slight increase in cases reported.
The new numbers show Central Oregon has among the highest levels of infection and rates.
Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties are well above the 200 infections per 100,000 mark. But because of the statewide metric requirement, they will almost certainly stay in the high risk limit level, the second more restrictive of the state’s four tiers.
Deschutes County reported 1,069 COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, with the cases per
100,000 rising to 542.6. Also up is the positive test rate, which at 9% is seen by health officials as a figure that could lead to future exponential growth of cases.
Crook County reported 546 cases per 100,000, a slight increase. But its test positivity rate fell to 8.6% from 9%. While still high, the rate is trending in the right direction.
Jefferson County also saw its rate per 100,000 rise to 315.3 cases per 100,000, but its positive test rate fell to 8.5% from 8.9%.
Deschutes County didn’t post the worst numbers of Oregon’s large counties only because neighboring Klamath County is so much higher than any populous area in the state.
Klamath County actually saw its number drop, but still leads Oregon in cases by a wide margin.
The county had 526 cases, with a massive 772.7 per 100,000. The downward trend could be in doubt because of a rising positive infection rate, now at 17.4%
The biggest ongoing impact is in the Portland tri-county area. Multnomah County showed a small drop in cases, cases in Clackamas rose and Washington County’s metrics showed mixed results. But all were above 200 cases-per-100,000, the rate that in other circumstances would have them all in extreme risk level. They will likely remain at high risk level for another two weeks.
In the northwest, both Clatsop and Tillamook counties saw overall cases decline.
Clatsop dropped to 52 cases and a per 100,000 people rate of 131.8. The positive infection rate fell to 5.1%, just .1% above the state’s maximum target rate of 5%, which officials say means infections are unlikely to spread rapidly.
Tillamook saw a drop in cases and rates that would likely maintain the status quo in terms of restrictions in the county.
Columbia County saw a drop in cases and rates, but remains in what would normally be the extreme risk category were it not for the statewide hospitalization waiver.
Yamhill County’s metrics remained largely unchanged, with numbers that would likely qualify it for extreme risk, but will keep it in the high risk because of the waiver.
Linn County was another large county that showed a continued sharp climb in cases and infection rate. Benton and Polk counties showed smaller upticks. Large counties showing falling rates of various sizes include Marion and Lane counties. Lincoln county dropped below 100 cases per 100,000.
The southwestern part of the state showed downward trends, with Coos County dropping its per capita case rate to possibly qualify for moderate risk status if OHA doesn’t see other factors at play.
Josephine, Jackson, Curry, and Douglas also saw falling rates, but continue to post numbers that indicate a high risk level for another two weeks.
Eastern Oregon showed a mixed set of results under the latest numbers.
Umatilla County dropped nearly 10 points to 136.2 cases per 100,000, a rate that would rank it as moderate risk. The only downside was an uptick in percent of positive cases to 5.5% in the new reporting period, up from 5% reported last week.
Baker County’s statistics were trending down, but remained high compared to other areas in the state. The county showed a decline in cases to 47 and a drop in cases per 100,000 to 277.9 from 360.7 in the previous report. The positive infection rate is 9%, down from 10.6% in the last report Union County held the line for the most part on cases. It showed a small uptick in positive test rates, to 2.7% from 2.0%, but its case numbers were almost identical to the last reporting period.
Cases and rates are up in Wallowa County and Gilliam counties, but the small population makes for volatile changes in weekly statistics that are often revised by OHA when making its announcement on weekly risk levels.
Grant County, a hot spot in recent weeks, showed an overall decline in cases, but reported positive cases were up to 10%, twice the level that OHA says is needed to keep cases from rebounding sharply.