PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington County is home to the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the state and health officials have a theory that might explain the puzzling trend.
Of Oregon’s 316 coronavirus cases reported by Thursday, 104 of them are in Washington County. A custodian at a Lake Oswego elementary school was the first person in the state to test positive on Feb. 28.
But by the time his case was confirmed (while he was hospitalized), multiple people had been exposed.
“We think it spread in-community,” said Marni Kuyl, the director of Health and Human Services for Washington County. “It may have been here longer, ahead of other communities.”
Officials in Washington County don’t think there was a so-called “super spreader,” or one person who passed the virus on to many people throughout the community.
Not all of the cases are directly linked. Many popped up in other places in the county: a student at Aloha High School, another at a middle school; some residents and staff at an assisted living and care center; a preschool worker; and at least one case connected to Intel, the largest private business in Oregon.
But it’s impossible to easily identify who is infected.
Listen below to the KOIN Podcast report on the high number of cases in Washington County.
“One of the things we learned as we interviewed people is that you can have really mild symptoms and can spread this. So at this point what’s really important—if you have any symptoms, you need to stay home,” said Kuyl.
A drive-through testing center is now open in Washington County but it’s only available to those with a doctor’s order or first responders and healthcare workers who may have been exposed.
Despite Washington County’s early lead in the number of cases, state and local health authorities expect other counties to catch up all-too-soon.