Pandemic Update

Update posted at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 24

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reports the Thursday, Sept. 25 COVID-19 case count statewide is the highest since mid-July.

Health officials said the high numbers are a reminder of the importance of staying six feet apart from each other, wearing a face covering when six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained and limiting the size of gatherings.

OHA reported 382 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 31,865. The count includes a new case in Columbia County.

COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 539. Columbia County's only pandemic-related death occurred in early August.

Previous Chief coverage posted at 1 p.m. Sept. 23.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Columbia County, following regional and statewide trends said Michael Paul, public health officer at Columbia County, at the Columbia County Commissioner meeting Wednesday.

There are seven known active infections in the county, Paul said.

“Our numbers in comparison to other counties are so small, we can see when we look at a weekly basis, we can see upticks that pretty much mirror larger counties,” Paul said.

The county has moved further away from meeting the metrics required to reopen school for in-person instruction. To reopen, the county must have less than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a test positive rate of 5% or less. Those metrics must be sustained for three weeks.

“It’s hard to predict when we could get to that point, the numbers are going back up,” Paul said. “Not sure we’re going to be able to reach that anytime soon.”

The county met the first metric of reporting 10 cases per 100,000 for one week at the end of August, but numbers have since risen. The test-positivity rate has remained under 5% for several weeks.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 23, The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported Columbia County had two additional COVID-19 cases, with a total of 158. The county’s only pandemic-related death occurred in early August.

Despite climbing rates, Columbia County has reported one of the lowest case rates in the state.

“We’re in the bottom maybe 10 or fewer counties in the state. We want to keep it that way,” Paul said. 

Part of keeping numbers down relies on following public health guidelines including wearing masks in public, keeping 6 feet of physical distance from others and keeping gatherings small, especially approaching the holiday season, Paul said.

“You can see increases in cases after both reopening and July Fourth,” he said. “Labor Day … you’re seeing that right now.”

As the weather turns colder and more people spend time indoors, Paul said the emphasis on contact tracing becomes more important. Contact tracing involves public health staff and volunteers notifying those who have spent time around someone who has tested positive for the virus and providing guidance.

Contact tracing information collected at restaurants or shops is only shared with public health officials if there is a positive case.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Clatskanie Middle/High School and Clatskanie Elementary School administrators issued a letter to district parents about the COVID-19 cases.

"It is important to know that currently there are two positive cases in our community with students between the ages of 10-19," the letter stated. "We are partnering closely with local public health officials and they will provide support and direction for managing COVID-19 related scenarios that impact our school community."

The administrators said they would issue information concerning pandemic events through emails and the district's alert and notification systems.

The administrators also issued the following recommendations for community protection.

  • Keep children who are sick at home. Don’t send them to school.
  • Teach your children to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Be sure to set a good example by doing this yourself.
  • Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or by coughing into the inside of the elbow. Be sure to set a good example by doing this yourself.
  • Teach your children to stay at least six feet away from people who are sick.
  • People who are sick should stay home from work or school and avoid other people until they are better. If you have questions, please contact your school nurse, healthcare provider, or your local board of health or check the CDC website.

OHA also reported that the week of Sept. 14 through Sept. 20 statewide reported new COVID-19 infections rose 17% from the week prior, to 1,511. The number of Oregonians newly tested rose 8%, to 18,840, and the percentage of tests that were positive rose from 5.6% to 6.2%.

Eighteen Oregonians were reported to have died in association with COVID-19, compared to 29 the prior week. One hundred and sixteen Oregonians were hospitalized, up from 83 in the previous week.

The age group with the highest incidence of reported infection continues to be 20–29-year-olds. People under 30 years old have accounted for 37% of reported cases.

For more information, visit the Oregon Department of Education’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners page, the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 page and http://csd.k12.or.us/?DivisionID=24336&ToggleSideNav=ShowAll

Community members with questions may also contact the Clatskanie School District at 503-728-2146.

Follow the daily pandemic updates at thechiefnews.com with in-depth reports in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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