Oregon health officials this morning delivered a gloomy assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic, following a record-breaking week of new infections. With Halloween and Thanksgiving fast approaching, Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen and State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger expressed concern.
"Once again, COVID 19 is surging in Oregon," Allen said. "Last week's total set a new high for the pandemic. On three consecutive days last week we exceeded 400 cases, including a record daily total of 484."
At the beginning of October, Oregon saw a promising reduction in case numbers. Since then, cases have risen by nearly 25%. The rate of positive testing is also at the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic when many fewer tests were being conducted. Hospitalization numbers due to COVID are also the highest they have been since mid-July.
"COVID-19 is again on the march in Oregon," Allen said. "This represents a stark reversal of the encouraging landscape we were able to present to you just six weeks ago."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oregon has reported 38,935 confirmed cases and 617 total deaths from COVID-19, and these numbers are increasing rapidly. When comparing last week and the week before, case totals increased 6.4% and deaths increased from 25 to 27. Hospitalizations rose from 119 to 147 in the past two weeks.
"This year, we are recommending against gathering, including, sadly, trick-or-treating," Allen said.
Allen reiterated that "social gatherings continue to be a forceful driver of this surge. COVID-19 will be in our lives for the foreseeable future. We must find ways to safely socialize without putting family or friends at risk."
This message of limiting social gatherings and remaining socially distanced has been consistent from officials at all levels, including Gov. Kate Brown. Despite people not following these orders, Allen and Sidelinger say there are no plans at this time to impose fines or threaten criminal charges to those who do not obey the rules.
"It's really unhelpful when people with really big loudspeakers are downplaying the disease," Sidelinger added. He was not specific about who these people are—but President Donald Trump, recovering from his own infection, has scoffed at the disease as he returns to the campaign trail.
At the end of the day, Allen and Sidelinger both say that selfishness and lack of knowledge of the virus has put us in this place.
"People are really focused on [their own health]," Allen said.