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Live updates: Oregon health officials forecast thousands of new COVID-19 cases

<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 (3:50 p.m. PT) — By the middle of August about 1,600 Oregonians will contract COVID-19 per day and 27 will enter hospitals, if the current rate of transmission continues, according to an Oregon Health Authority model shared Thursday that seemed to underline Gov. Kate Brown's decision to tighten restrictions around the state.

The health agency updates its forecast for COVID-19 every other week, outlining possible scenarios for the virus' spread.

In its best-case scenario, with transmission of the virus decreasing by 10 percentage points from Thursday, new infections would fall to about 600 a day by Aug. 13, with 17 people entering hospitals per day.

The state's most pessimistic scenario imagines a 10 percentage point increase in transmission, which would lead to 2,300 daily infections by Aug. 13 and 46 people entering the hospital each day.

Oregon reports 331 new COVID-19 diagnoses, 2 deaths

COVID-19 has claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the death toll to 273, state health officials said Thursday

The Oregon Health Authority also reported 331 new confirmed or presumed COVID-19 diagnoses. Since the pandemic was first detected in Oregon, 15,713 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, though health officials say that number under-counts the virus’ full reach.

The people whose deaths were announced Wednesday were:

A 74-year-old Umatilla County man who died June 16 at Good Shepherd Health System, after testing positive June 29.

A 79-year-old Marion County woman who died Tuesday at Salem Hospital, after testing positive July 8.

Both had underlying medical conditions.

Washington passes 50,000 coronavirus diagnoses

Clark County, Washington, officials reported 28 new positive COVID-19 test results on Thursday and no new deaths. That brings to 1,605 the number of people who are known to have had the coronavirus in Clark County, and 37 who have died from it.

The latest available data from the Washington Department of Health shows 50,009 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the state and 1,482 are known to have died of it. As of Wednesday night, COVID-19 has led to the hospitalization of 5,276 people in Washington.

Freedom Foundation challenges Oregon's latest mask order

A conservative nonprofit group is trying to get an Oregon court to throw out Gov. Kate Brown’s order requiring people in the state to wear face masks in indoor public places and outside when social distancing isn’t possible.

The Freedom Foundation said the governor and the Oregon Health Authority acted too hastily in issuing the mask order to combat the spread of COVID-19, and it also questioned whether the mandate infringed on constitutional rights.

A Freedom Foundation official said he was not arguing against the use of face masks. But he said the governor should take the time to give public comment on proposed mask rules and should take into account the legitimate concerns some people have to wearing masks.

Read more: Oregon lawsuit seeks to toss Gov. Kate Brown's face-mask mandate

Testing delays limit Oregon's efforts to contain COVID-19

Almost five months into the pandemic, the coronavirus is spreading, often undetected — and certainly under-detected — in every community in Oregon. 

Testing is supposed to be the cornerstone of the state’s effort to suppress the virus. 

But local and national supply shortages, delays processing results at out-of-state labs, and competing demand from hard-hit states like Arizona and Texas are undermining Oregon’s efforts to track the virus and to find and isolate the close contacts of people who test positive before they unwittingly spread the virus to even more Oregonians.

Public health clinics in Multnomah County have also been using Quest Diagnostics for testing and experiencing long delays.

With a virus as fast-moving and transmissible as COVID-19, the lag time in testing may be contributing to community spread, according to Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health officer.

“There’s a big prevention window opportunity missed,” she said. “It makes contact tracing much more difficult and much less effective.”

Read more: Delayed test results make efforts to contain COVID 'unworkable' in Oregon

Nike, Wieden+Kennedy announce layoffs

Oregon companies Wieden+Kennedy and Nike both announced layoffs Wednesday.  

Wieden+Kennedy, a Portland-based advertising agency, said it has laid off 11% of its global workforce due to financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. It would not specify the number of Portland employees that have been laid off.  

“We negotiated this as long as we could, but W+K and COVID-19 have reached an impasse,” the ad agency said in a statement. “How long this will last seems to be anybody’s guess, so we have had to make some hard choices.”  

Nike Wednesday also announced the beginning of layoffs, as well as management shifts, related to a larger reorganization of the company.  

Nike said it expects to have a “net loss of jobs across the company” resulting in employee termination costs of between $200 million and $250 million. It did not specify the number of employees expected to be laid off.  

Read more: Wieden+Kennedy, Nike announce layoffs

Oregon imposes new COVID-19 restrictions, increases mask mandate

Oregon is stepping further back from reopening and imposing new statewide coronavirus-related restrictions starting Friday, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday.

Under the new rules, all children older than 5 must wear face coverings in public, and people who work out at gyms must wear masks. Crowds at restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms and churches must be kept to 100 people or fewer  the previous limit was 250. And bars and restaurants statewide must close by 10 p.m., including in areas where they had previously been able to stay open until midnight.

"I don't make these decisions lightly and there are no easy choices," Brown said. "This is all hard."

The governor also noted that Oregon has experienced an increase of youth transmission of COVID-19, and said that state leaders would make new announcements about the 2020-2021 school year soon.

Read more: Oregon to expand COVID-19 restrictions, starting Friday

Oregon students will be required to wear face coverings this fall

“This effort will boost school districts’ efforts to keep their students and staff healthy and safe,” said ODE Director Colt Gill in a statement.

“This will help ensure that access to face coverings will not become a barrier to meeting the new requirement.”

State education leaders also released new details about their plans for the start of the 2020-21 academic year.

Read more: Oregon schools to require, receive masks for start of year

Outbreaks identified at Umatilla distribution center, at Warm Springs

The Oregon Health Authority has reported an outbreak of 23 cases of COVID-19 at a Walmart distribution center in Umatilla County. The case count includes everyone connected to the outbreak, which may include household members of infected workers. Umatilla County has the largest amount of coronavirus cases per capita in the state.

Additionally, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs has started a two-week quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus on the reservation, following a spike in cases. The reservation — with a population of around 5,000 — has had 120 positive cases of COVID-19 as of July 17.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Courtney Sherwood, and OPB staff
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