Lawmakers to OHA: Release COVID ‘breakthrough’ case count

Coronavirus

Senate Bill 719 under discussion in Salem

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — How many “breakthrough” COVID cases are there in Oregon, that is, vaccinated people who contract the coronavirus?

Oregon lawmakers are asking why the Oregon Health Authority is not revealing certain information and now 2 Portland state legislators have a bill that would make OHA answer that question and others.

Senate Bill 719, which comes up for discussion later this week in Salem, would require OHA to release information from disease investigations unless the information would likely lead to identifying individual people.

OHA officials cited a privacy issue in refusing to release Oregon numbers on breakthrough cases, but they now say they are working to get those numbers.

The bill is co-sponsored by State Sen. Michael Dembrow and State Rep. Karin Power.

On Monday, Dembrow told KOIN 6 News the state agenecy needs to be more transparent, especially with COVID information.

“This pandemic has really revealed the public’s hunger for information about the disease, how it’s spreading, where the danger is,” Dembrow said. “We need to know how to act, how to make rational decisions about their safety and their family’s safety.”

At least a dozen states, including Washington and Idaho, provide numbers of breakthrough cases. Each state is reporting nearly 100 cases so far — which the Washington State Department of Health said is about .01% of vaccinated people in the state.

But knowing about these cases helps people understand the vaccine is not 100% effective. People still need to take precautions even after being fully vaccinated.

Statement from OHA

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority told KOIN 6 News an informed public is the best defense during the pandemic.

“The conversation with Senator Dembrow and advocates for SB 719 has reflected the balance we are all striving to achieve, weighing the critical importance of individual privacy given that reportable disease and disease outbreaks concern protected health information, and the public’s interest in pandemic related information. Information is a vital part of a modern public health system that can end the COVID-19 pandemic and protect Oregonians against other health threats. OHA will continue to work toward providing information that is important to the health of our communities. SB 719 reflects this value.”

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