PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Despite Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines’ statement that she doesn’t “foresee a Multnomah County stay-at-home order in the near future,” Gov. Kate Brown told KOIN 6 News it remains an option during the ongoing pandemic.
In a one-on-one interview, the governor explained why Multnomah County — now on the state’s “Watch List” for coronavirus — bears close scrutiny.
“All options are on the table and if the infection rate continues to increase, I’ll need to take more severe actions — which nobody wants,” the governor said.
But Multnomah County is different from Umatilla County, which was rolled back to Baseline status last week and has led the state’s daily report of confirmed COVID cases for the last 2 days.
“Given the numbers of people living in those communities we’re seeing extremely high spread of the disease,” Brown said. “For example, one of the studies that we saw out of Hermiston showed one out of 6 people is likely to have the disease. That is a very high infection rate.”
Even though there is an increase in COVID cases in Multnomah County (with a population around 812,000) it is not as widespread as in Umatilla County (population about 78,000.)
Gov. Brown also talked about ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the fastest growing group of people — those between 20 and 40 years of age.
“Obviously we want to really reduce the informal social gatherings whether it’s friends or family it doesn’t matter. And if you have concerns, move it outside. We know it’s less likely for the virus to spread outside,” she said. “And then even if it’s family and friends, people that are not in your household bubble, it’s really important that you wear a face covering.”
Brown said there will be another updated August 11 from the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority as parents try to determine exactly what to do with their students this school year.
Letter from Tri-County chairs
A letter to Gov. Brown and OHA Director Patrick Allen signed by the chairs of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — Deborah Kafoury, Kathryn Harrington and Jim Bernard — asked for systems changes to help the tri-county region better coordinate a response to the ongoing pandemic.
On July 30, Multnomah County was added to the COVID-19 Watch List of Oregon counties
experiencing an unmanageable sporadic spread of the virus. Increases in sporadic cases are
related to the movement, work and social gathering of people, all forces that public health can’t
alone control,” the August 3 letter states. “We’ve found that social interactions in particular cross geographic boundaries, making a distinct Metro-area strategy imperative when looking at statewide metrics.”
Among the changes they want are to change the thresholds for outbreaks, omit household contacts from employer outbreaks and develop more training support for investigators.
They also asked for financial help to get the word out to modify behaviors and educate businesses, and for getting protective gear and staffing to support the “effective response in the region.”