SALEM, Ore. — Oregon again set records for new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths last week, according to the latest weekly report from the Oregon Health Authority.
OHA reported more than 8,600 new cases between Monday, November 16 and Sunday, November 22 — a 34 percent increase over the last record-high week.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 during the week rose to 366, a 26 percent increase over the previous week and another weekly high.
The agency noted 61 deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the week, almost double the 31 deaths a week prior.
Though people between the ages of 20 and 59 account for more than half of total cases, people age 70 ad older account for 74 percent of deaths. This trend, which has remained relatively constant, underlines the risk that seniors face from uncontrolled spread in communities.
The one metric to fall last week was Oregon's test positivity rate, though not because the number of positive cases truly declined. Instead, the drop can be attributed to OHA changing its method for reporting total tests to one that is arguably more accurate.
"Previously, OHA used a 'person-based' method," the agency said. "OHA is now using a 'test-based' method, whereby all electronic lab reports received by OHA will be used to calculate percent positivity. This change was prompted by changes in testing patterns."
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported last Friday that the change came amid increased press and scrutiny over OHA's testing methodology.
Previously, Oregon health officials only reported tests for new individuals, whether positive or negative. This method essentially discounted individuals who have been tested repeatedly, such as staff or residents of long-term care facilities, which became more common as testing capacity gradually expanded over the course of the pandemic. As a result, the true number of total tests performed was obscured in the Oregon Health Authority's prior reporting.
Under the new model, Oregon's test positivity rate last week dropped to 7.2 percent from a rate (under the old method) of more than 13 percent the week prior. However, it's difficult to put that rate in context now that test methodology has changed. Based on CDC data, this does place Oregon in the bottom third of the U.S. for test positivity over the past week.