SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 418 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths on Friday. With the announcement came a prediction for a concerning future if trends continue as they are now.
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. A second model presented by OHA's Dr. Dean Sidelinger suggests that with a 5-percent increase in transmission, that number of cases reported a day could jump to 740 and 48 hospitalizations.
"COVID-19 is again on the march in Oregon," OHA Director Patrick Allen said.
Case numbers have risen by 25 percent in the last six weeks, with last week's total number of cases set a new state record and deaths surpassed 600 in Oregon.
The main reason for the increase in case numbers is increased social gatherings where masks and social distancing are nonexistent. The changes people enacted in late July, leading to a drop in cases, were only short term. If Oregon is to bring case number counts down again and stay down, Oregonians need to stick with their changes.
"We need people to make a lasting change in their individual behavior," Allen said. "That lasting change is gonna need to be with us for months."
Officials are worried with the holiday season approaching, people will want to socialize more, especially with people they haven't seen since the start of the pandemic. Increased travel would almost certainly lead to more infections, according to OHA officials.
Earlier this week the Transportation Security Administration reported they screened nearly one million travelers, the most since mid-March. But traveling on a plane is actually the safest part of a trip.
A recent Department of Defense experiment, in conjunction with United Airlines, found when everyone is wearing a mask there is only a 0.003 percent chance of particles from one passenger to someone sitting next to them. Oregon health officials aren't worried so much about the journey, but what people do once they get to their destination.
"Air travel itself can be one of the safest parts of the journey," Dr. Sidelinger said. "But it's what happens at the end of the journey: who you're gathering with, the size of the crowd, the potential for spread in those settings that's more worrisome than the actual trip itself."
In addition, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that Lane County has been added to the County Watch List. Currently, there are five counties on the watch list - Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla. A county is placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly.