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Health & Medicine

COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects Latinos In Washington County

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

UPDATE (5:02 p.m. PT) — Public health officials in Washington County said Wednesday that the Latino community is disproportionately affected by coronavirus.

Almost half of the more than 450 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county have been within the Latino community, which makes up only about 16.5% of the total population. 

“Many of our Latinx residents don’t have the privilege of working from home and staying safe,” Marni Kuyl, director of Washington County Health and Human Services, said during a press conference Wednesday. “They are caring for our elderly in long-term care facilities. They’re working to harvest the food our community needs, and they’re working in grocery stores and restaurants to be sure that food makes it to our tables.”

Kuyl said more than half of the Latino residents who tested positive for the virus in Washington County said they worked in one of those job fields.

She said the county is working to prioritize testing for communities of color and residents without health insurance as well as increase outreach and education.

Oregon known coronavirus deaths surpass 100

Health officials in Oregon reported Wednesday 61 new confirmed coronavirus cases bringing the state’s total known cases to 2,446. 

Health officials also announced Wednesday two new coronavirus-related deaths.

The Oregon Health Authority detailed the new deaths as:

A 75-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on April 20 and died on April 22 at his residence. He had underlying medical conditions.

A 71-year-old female in Multnomah County who tested positive on April 11 and died on April 20  at Adventist Hospital. She had underlying medical conditions.

The number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Oregon is now at 101.

Clark County reports 8 new known coronavirus cases

In Southwest Washington, Clark County Public Health on Wednesday confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus, bringing the county’s total number of known cases to 351. 

No new deaths were reported Wednesday. In total, 21 people are known to have died of COVID-19 in Clark County.

The latest available data from the Washington Department of Health show 13,842 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus and 786 related deaths.

The U.S. as a whole hit 1 million coronavirus cases Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Oregon Health Plan applications increase

The Oregon Health Authority Wednesday reported an increase in new member enrollments for the Oregon Health Plan, or OHP. 

Applications for OHP averaged 776 per day in March and April compared to 536 per day in January and February, the agency said. 

“Many Oregonians have lost their jobs and as a result, their health coverage,” OHA director Patrick Allen said in a statement. “Taking care of your physical and mental health, especially at this time, is critically important. We encourage individuals to see if they are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan.”

Costco to require face masks for customers

Costco stores will require all customers to wear face masks starting Monday, May 4.

“The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing,” the company said in a statement.

The requirement does not apply to children under 2 years old or people who are unable to wear a face-covering due to a medical condition.

Oregon governor orders state agencies to plan spending cuts

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is ordering Oregon agencies to plan for nearly $2 billion in budget cuts as she prepares for the pandemic’s effects on state finances.

In a memo issued to agency directors April 24, Oregon’s chief financial officers directed agencies to submit plans for 8.5% cuts in their allotted general fund spending for the two-year budget cycle.

Financial officers George Naughton and Kate Nass write in the memo, “we do know it will be a significant drop in state revenues. This impact could be as high as a loss of two to three billion in state resources during the current 2019-21 biennium.”

Agencies have been directed to submit plans of their proposed spending cuts by May 8.

Antibody testing available, but limited in Oregon

Starting Wednesday, antibody tests for COVID-19 became available to all Americans without a doctor’s referral.

Antibody tests can’t tell you if you currently have COVID-19, but they can indicate if you had it in the past. There are over a hundred antibody tests on the market, but up until now, you could only get them under certain circumstances. This week, two companies, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorps, announced that they’re now offering tests to the public. But you might need to drive to get one.

LabCorps is partnering with Walgreens to provide their tests to the public, but none of the participating stores are in Oregon. Quest Diagnostics has several locations in Oregon that offer testing. You go to their online portal to pay for and order the test, and then schedule an appointment at a Quest location to have the test done. On Wednesday, the only Quest locations in Oregon with openings were along the Interstate 5 corridor, and even there, it’s hit-or-miss. There were no appointments available in Ashland or Salem (the website suggested Salem residents drive to Portland, where appointments were booked until May 19) but several locations in Eugene and Roseburg had openings.

It’s unclear why there are no appointments available in eastern Oregon. Quest operates labs Bend and other cities east of the Cascades. They may be fully booked, or they may not be set up to take appointments for the antibody tests. A Quest representative said that due to high demand, the company will be making more appointments available soon, but it’s unclear where those will be. In the meantime, Quest said that any primary care provider can order the test. They’ll just need to do the blood draw somewhere else.

There are more caveats. As OPB reported previously, if only a very small percentage of the population has actually been infected, the test won’t be very accurate. It’s possible that there will be more false positives than true positives, which means some people will be told they have antibodies for COVID-19, even if they were never sick. Still, if you had symptoms but couldn’t get tested, it can be another piece of evidence in the puzzle.

Quest Diagnostics and LabCorps have both been careful to note that a positive result does not mean that a person is immune to COVID-19. There are still a lot of questions we need to answer before we can say that — like how long immunity lasts and whether or not you need to get really sick to develop an immune response at all. Instead, the companies hope their tests will help track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the community.

Neither of these commercial tests has been approved by the FDA, but they have emergency authorization to conduct tests without that approval. Still, that means there’s no agency confirming laboratory claims about test accuracy. After concerns were raised about the accuracy of several commercial COVID-19 antibody tests, Congress called for the FDA to increase their oversight of antibody testing and to make sure they tests work in the first place.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting