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Age, Poverty Could Put Douglas County At High Risk Of Becoming Overburdened By Coronavirus

Douglas County
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Douglas County

Age and poverty make Douglas County one of the areas with the greatest risk of becoming overburdened by the coronavirus, according to federal health data.

The Centers For Disease Control uses socioeconomic data — like poverty, vehicle access, and housing conditions — to help emergency planners pinpoint areas that might need the most help during a disaster.

The coronavirus appears to be hitting older populations the hardest. By measuring areas with the highest populations of people over 60, along with the CDC’s vulnerability index, Douglas County becomes one of the top four in the country at risk for becoming overburdened.

But Douglas County public health officer Bob Dannenhoffer says knowing that doesn’t make his job any easier.

“I can’t change the age of our population, I can’t change the poverty of our population, so please give me some data that could be useful,” Dannenhoffer says.

Dannenhoffer says the assessment that Douglas County’s health system could be at high risk of becoming overburdened isn’t reflective of what’s happening on the ground.

“We only have 3 cases in Douglas County, despite very extensive testing,” Dannenhoffer says. “We are a very well-prepared county otherwise. And if you look at one of the low-risk counties, it’s upstate New York, where they have all these cases. Would you really rather be in upstate New York than in Douglas County, Oregon? I think not.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Douglas County had tested about 70 people for the coronavirus, of which three tested positive. The county has about 115,000 people and 34 percent are 60 years or older.

Dannenhoffer says he has so far been satisfied with the amount of support his county is getting from the state of Oregon, but he would like to see more help coming from the federal government.   

Copyright 2020 Jefferson Public Radio

April Ehrlich began freelancing for Jefferson Public Radio in the fall of 2016, and then officially joined the team as its Morning Edition Host and a Jefferson Exchange producer in August 2017.
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