The Oregon Health Authority reported three new COVID-19 cases in Columbia County, bringing the total to 182, as of Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The OHA said statewide, there were 299 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. The state total has now reached 33,291.

COVID-19 Update

Health authorities continue to stress that washing hands frequently, following social distancing practices and wearing a face covering will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

County statement

In a briefing to the county Board of Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 28, county Public Health Director Michael Paul said we might see numbers continue to rise.

“We have over 20 currently infectious, those are the cases we know about,” Paul said.

This sharp uptick in cases will push the county further behind in meeting the metrics needed to reopen schools, which require that a county maintain a case rate of less than 10 per 100,000 people for three weeks.

“Based on new cases yesterday and today, we didn’t start off this week in a good spot,” Paul said.

Of the new cases, Paul told commissioners that some have been related to workplaces, holiday gatherings and “more than a couple cases related to church services.” He also said that childcare, and combining households to provide childcare have been linked to cases.

The OHA reported COVID-19 has claimed eight more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 555, as of Sept. 29. Columbia County's only pandemic-related death so far occurred in early August.

On Friday, Sept. 25, the OHA reported the highest daily case count since the beginning of the pandemic in Oregon, 457 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 statewide.

State statement

Patrick Allen, OHA director, said Labor Day gatherings, the return of college students to campus and a higher number seeking care following wildfires across the state are all contributing factors to the state’s sharp incline in COVID-19 cases.

“We must rethink the way we socialize and the way we socially interact,” Allen said in a media briefing.

The surge in cases follows a six week decline and presents discouraging numbers, Allen said.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “We cannot let up in our collective efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19.”

Across the state, outbreaks have been linked to social gatherings involving groups of people meeting without following health guidelines. Three outbreaks are linked to parties held at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Another outbreak is linked to a prayer group meeting. All the gatherings had attendees without masks.

“We’ve all worked too hard in beating the tide of this virus,” said Oregon State Health Officer Dean Sidelinger. “We’ve flattened the curve before, we can do it again.”

Sidelinger and Allen reiterated the importance of following best health practices moving ahead. Wearing face coverings when outside or around others, restricting the size and location of gatherings and keeping physical distance from others are all effective ways to reduce transmission of the virus.

It’s also especially important to prepare for flu season this year, Sidelinger said.

“It’s important to get your flu shot. It’s important every year, but it’s important more this year than others,” he said. Preparing against the flu season can help keep communities healthier as they battle COVID-19, which there is not a vaccine available for yet.

Oregon Health Authority reported 181 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 32,994, as of Sept. 28.

Follow daily pandemic updates here online with in-depth reports in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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