MultCo officials wary of potential COVID-19 spike after holiday weekend


Multnomah County was recently removed from the COVID-19 Watch List

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is holding a briefing on Tuesday morning to discuss the ongoing response to COVID-19.

Health officials, including Multnomah County Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, outlined the current trends of the coronavirus around the county. During the informational board briefing, the officials voiced their concern for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Over the summer, holiday weekends have resulted in significant coronavirus spikes. After Memorial Day, for example, the number of COVID-19 tests performed spiked by 50%. The positivity rate of those tests rose by 40% — leading to a 240% increase in cases and hospitalizations.

After the Fourth of July weekend, the number of COVID-19 tests increased by 25%, with 40% coming back positive. That resulted in a 58% increase in cases and hospitalizations.

“What that tells us is that it’s not just about having more tests,” Public Health Director Rachel Banks said. “That hospitalization rate shows regardless of if folks are tested or not, the symptoms are severe enough to land them in the hospital.”

In an effort to help mitigate the spread over the upcoming holiday weekend, the board released a list of options to take into consideration. The list suggested virtual gatherings or a gathering entirely outside with social distancing still in place, or even adding a fan outdoors. The list of course included wearing a mask when you go inside anywhere, and the board also suggested planning on how you are going talk to your friends or family members about wearing a mask.

Dr. Vines and Pediatric Infectious Disease Expert Ann Loeffler later dove into metrics surrounding schooling. Some Clark County school districts had their first day back on Tuesday, while many other districts around the area will begin next week

“As great as it is to start to see our numbers coming down, we still have a ways to go to meet school metrics — and I would argue that is really our next public health priority given the short term and long term benefits of having kids in school,” she said.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education have developed both the metrics along with blueprints for schools to submit a plan for the upcoming year, whether it be online or hybrid learning. Out of 200 public schools in the state, 180 plans have been submitted. Forty out of 60 private schools have submitted their plans.

Last week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Multnomah County, along with Hood River County, was removed from the COVID-19 Watch List.

Brown said both counties have reduced the spread of the coronavirus successfully enough to be taken off the Watch List. With their removal, six counties remain: Baker, Jackson, Jefferson, Malheur, Morrow and Umatilla.

Counties are added to the Watch List when the virus is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace the spread to a specific source. Being on the Watch List allows the state to prioritize resources and help, increases monitoring and deploys more technical assistance, officials said.

Brown also recently extended a temporary halt to homeowner and business foreclosures in Oregon until December 31.

The current moratorium was extended to Sept. 30 by the first 2020 special session of the Oregon Legislature, which met June 24-26. The legislation (House Bill 4204) gave Brown the option to extend it to Dec. 31, but only if she announced it by Sept. 1.

Brown announced her decision Monday through an executive order.

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