Pandemic 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.

Update posted at 1 p.m. Oct. 1.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported seven new cases of COVID-19 in Columbia County on Thursday, Oct. 1.

This brings a total of 38 new cases reported since Friday. In total, the county had 195 COVID-19 cases, as of Oct. 1. The only pandemic-related death in the county occurred in early August.

Despite sharp increases in cases, county Public Health Director Michael Paul said there is not one significant event accounting for the rise.

“In the last two weeks we’ve seen our case count go up for not any particular event, we’ve just seen an overall increase,” Paul said at the county Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Paul said that within the last week the number of people considered currently infectious has jumped to almost 30. That number had been at or around seven for most of August and September, he said.

Common settings

While there is no single event that caused the surge in case, Paul identified some common settings reported by those who have contracted the virus in the county: Weddings, birthday parties, family reunions, holiday gatherings, faith-based gatherings and services, travel and camping. He said that many of the cases are workplace or household contacts.

The highest single-day new case count in the county was eight, Paul said. Eight new cases were reported on Monday, Sept. 28, pushing the county further behind in meeting the metrics required to open schools back for in-person learning. In order to reopen the state must be at or below 5% COVID-19 positivity test rates (the state reported a 6.2% positivity test rate for the week of Sept. 21-27); and the county must have 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 and sustain that number for three weeks.

“It looks like we won’t make that,” Paul said about meeting the metric. “In Columbia County our case load needs to be below five or fewer cases per week. Last week we had 20.”

Paul also mentioned the state-run resource of the Safe + Strong Helpline to support Oregonians mental and emotional health, as well as provide callers with resources. The number of the helpline is 1-800-923-HELP.

State, national cases

Statewide, OHA reported a total of 33,862 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, as of Oct. 1 with the death toll at 560. Across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,213,419 COVID-19 cases and 206,402 deaths, as of Oct. 1.

Local, state and federal health officials continue to urge the public to wash hands often, avoid close contact by staying at least six feet apart in crowed areas and cover your mouth and nose with a mask as a way to show the spread of COVID-19.

According to the CDC, there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

Prevention

"The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus," according to the CDC website. "The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person."

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter, according to the CDC.

"Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19," the CDC website states. "This means getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever."

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