PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon once again broke a record for daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, after the Oregon Health Authority reported 437 new confirmed and presumptive cases. The state also reported two more deaths attributed to the virus, bringing the death toll to 249.
"Today’s case count is the highest since the onset of the pandemic," OHA said in a statement. "The rise in cases is attributed to the spread of COVID-19 from social gatherings and sporadic spread. Worksite outbreaks and long term care facility outbreaks also are contributing cases to the daily count."
The Thursday cases brought Oregon's total to 13,509 since the start of the pandemic.
The new cases were reported in the following counties: Benton (4), Clackamas (28), Clatsop (2), Coos (2), Deschutes (28), Douglas (4), Hood River (5), Jackson (8), Jefferson (6), Josephine (1), Klamath (3), Lane (12), Lincoln (3), Linn (4), Malheur (17), Marion (53), Morrow (8), Multnomah (108), Polk (7), Tillamook (2), Umatilla (50), Union (1), Wasco (2), Washington (76), and Yamhill (3).
OHA underlined that many of the positive cases have come from private gatherings — graduation parties, birthdays, weddings, holiday get-togethers, exercise classes, fraternity and bachelor parties.
The agency said that the two latest deaths were both in Malheur County. A 97-year-old man tested positive on June 29 and died on July 15 at his home. He had underlying conditions. A 58-year-old woman tested positive on July 6 and died on July 13, though her place of death and any information on underlying conditions have not yet been confirmed.
Testing drops while positive cases continue to rise
Previous weekly reports on coronavirus testing from the OHA have shown a rising rate of positive results out of total tests performed, with the positivity rate gradually climbing each week since late May.
The latest report, released on Monday, shows that the number of tests performed have dropped in the past week — but the positivity rate continued to climb.
Between June 28 and July 5, Oregon received 39,914 total results with a positive rate of 5.3 percent. Last week, between July 6 and July 12, total results dropped to 28,314 with a positive rate of 5.8 percent.
"Oregon’s number of tests performed had been steadily increasing until this week when the number of COVID-19 tests performed dropped by 29 percent," OHA said. "The number of positive cases and the test positivity rate have increased significantly since late May. This suggests increasing numbers of individuals with COVID-19, which is expected now that all counties are in Phase 1 or Phase 2 of reopening. Recent large outbreaks around the state have also contributed to these increases. We will continue to monitor these trends."
Governor Brown says school this fall 'will not look like a normal year'
Governor Kate Brown issued a statement on Thursday, referencing a meeting the day prior with the Healthy Schools Reopening Council:
“As COVID-19 continues to spread across Oregon, it has become clear that school this fall will not look like a normal year. Many, if not most Oregon students are in districts that will focus on online distance learning or have a hybrid model of some online education and some in-person classroom time.
“I am pushing school officials to make sure underserved and marginalized students –– our kids of color and our low-income kids –– get the support and opportunities they need. We cannot allow our response to this pandemic to increase racial disparities in educational outcomes.
"Whether or not kids are in school buildings this fall, we must provide the very best possible education for every single Oregon student, while ensuring that the school experience is as safe as possible for everyone: students, educators, support staff, parents, and the community at large."
Brown's office said that members of the council received an update on COVID-19 metrics from OHA. Acknowledging that variations exist in COVID-19 spread county-by-county, council members are now considering "what specific metrics should guide local decisions about when and whether to shift from in-person to remote instruction during the school year."
"They also discussed the specific needs for those students who do enter school buildings and the educators who serve them, including how to implement health and safety measures to limit the spread of the disease, such as the use of face coverings for students, how many students should be in a classroom at one time, and strategies for transportation with school bus capacity limited by physical distancing," Brown's office said.
The council also reportedly discussed more training and support for educators, to ensure that students have ways to access learning and critical support services under hybrid and comprehensive distance learning models, and providing more flexibility for a longer school year.
"Student representatives on the council offered compelling examples of the ways schools and educators are vital to student mental health and well-being, and the difficulty of maintaining those connections and support when school buildings are closed," Brown's office said.