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Known Oregon Coronavirus Cases Surpass 800; State To Receive New Testing Devices

<p>There is currently no vaccine to prevent contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.</p>

There is currently no vaccine to prevent contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

UPDATE (8:45 p.m. PT) – Oregon state and local health officials reported 90 new known cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday afternoon, bringing the state’s total to 826. 

OHA also announced two additional deaths Thursday. The state now has 21 known deaths from the virus.

The two new deaths are a 61-year-old man in Washington County and a 91-year-old woman in Marion County. Both people had underlying medical conditions, OHA said.

Washington passes 250 deaths

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Clark County is 131 and eight people are known to have died from COVID-19, according to public health officials. 

Clark County Public Health announced one new positive case Thursday and two new known deaths.

Washington had 6,585 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus and 262 related deaths as of Wednesday night, according to the Washington Department of Health. Technical difficulties due to the growing number of negative test results have slowed the state's reporting of data.

Oregon health officials say COVID-19 cases will likely slow down

In a media briefing Thursday, state health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said current modeling and data suggests that Oregon cases will rise over the next month – gradually. 

“What we are encouraged for in the latest update on the models from our partners in Washington state is that it appears we will not see a dramatic spike in cases over the next month here in Oregon,” SIdelinger said.

According to Sidelinger, modeling shows that staying home is working, likely cutting down infections by 50 to 70%. Sidelinger said that avoiding a big spike in Oregon cases depends on people following Gov. Kate Brown’s stay home order and health care workers having adequate personal protective equipment to use.

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps, a final tally on federally provided PPE has yet to be counted, but more PPE is on its way to a distribution center in Wilsonville.

Oregon unemployment claims continue to increase

The Oregon Employment Department Thursdaysaid it received 92,700 initial unemployment insurance benefit claims during the

week of March 22.

That’s a 21% increase from the week prior when Oregonians filed more than 76,000 claims. By comparison, the department had received fewer than 5,000 claims the week of March 8.

Oregon to receive new testing devices

The Oregon Health Authority will receive a shipment of 15 rapid coronavirus testing devices from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Oregon COVID-19 Joint Information Center. 

The testing device is called the Abbot ID NOW, a device newly approved by the FDA that can detect coronavirus in as little as five minutes for positive results and 13 minutes for negative results, the center said.

OHA will determine where to send the devices based on testing priorities. It is not yet known when OHA will receive the devices.

Oregon health officials do not discourage mask use

Dr. Jennifer Vines, lead health officer for the tri-county region, said in a media call Thursday that she does not discourage Oregonians from wearing masks, though there is not science available on whether or not they help slow the spread of coronavirus. 

“We’re not discouraging people who want to use some kind of nose or mouth coverage while they’re out,” Vines said. “I don’t think we’re actively recommending it. There’s not a lot of science that it helps.”

Vines said she and other health officials are waiting for guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to reporting from The Washington Post, the White House is expected to urge Americans to begin wearing cloth masks or other types of face coverings. 

Vines said regardless of mask usage, she reminds people to continue practicing social distancing and to stay at least six feet away from other people.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown bans commercial evictions

Brown announced Wednesday an emergency order stating that commercial tenants who provide proof that they cannot pay rent due to the pandemic cannot be formally evicted but must make partial payments, if able.

Brown also strengthened an order from March 22 that bans residential evictions for nonpayment. It ensures landlords cannot initiate eviction proceedings on tenants or charge late fees if a tenant cannot pay due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Before it was strengthened, the order banned law enforcement officers in Oregon from enforcing evictions, but it did not stop landlords from beginning formal proceedings.

Portland leaders urge for rent and mortgage waivers

A letter issued by Portland’s city council to state and federal officials Wednesday outlines the city leaders’ call to stop all rent and mortgage payments for renters and business owners who are suffering due to COVID-19.

Currently, under Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium, renters who are suffering financially amid the pandemic can delay their rent payments, but they will still need to pay them back six months after the coronavirus state of emergency ends.

City of Redmond asking incoming travelers at Redmond Airport to self-quarantine

Redmond city officials are urging incoming travelers to Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) to voluntarily self-quarantine amid growing cases of COVID-19. Airport officials said Wednesday they have immediately begun encouraging all airport passengers to do a 14-day in-home quarantine upon arrival in Central Oregon.

“These actions are difficult, but they will help flatten the curve and lay the groundwork for a quicker recovery,” said Redmond Mayor George Endicott in a statement.

According to the city, RDM is experiencing a 90% reduction in travelers passing through the terminal, down from a daily average of 1,500 people. The airport’s recommendation applies to all incoming passengers made regardless of where they’re flying from. 

The Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton has yet to issue similar recommendations, but the airport said its aircraft only seats eight people to and from PDX. Airport manager Steve Chrisman said the airport is maintaining current social distancing standards in place by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

According to Chrisman, its airline Boutique Air has gone down to just one to three passengers per flight, ranging between three to five flights per week.

At the Eugene Airport, acting assistant airport director Andrew Martz said the terminal is following the latest health and social distancing guidelines provided by the Lane County Health Department, and is cleaned thoroughly. According to Martz, social distancing measures on board airplanes are at the discretion of each airline.

TriMet limiting number of passengers to 15

TriMet is limiting how many people are allowed on buses effective Thursday evening, with no more than 10-15 riders at a time. According to the transit service, only 10 individuals are allowed to ride, or up to 15 people if they’re riding together, such as couples or parents with children. If a bus reaches capacity, it won’t pick up any new passengers until someone exits the bus.

“This is to make sure people have enough space to spread out and to prevent overcrowding,” the agency said in a statement.

TriMet said it will try to adjust service if buses are consistently full. Signs have been added to certain seats to promote safely distanced seating from each other and the bus operator.

The service has called on community members to stay off transit unless they’re heading to an essential job, grocery store or pharmacy.

“[T]hese restrictions will help our community get through this, so we can get back to serving you normally as soon as possible,” TriMet added in its statement.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell
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