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Fires Could Affect Coronavirus Case Numbers, Contact Tracing

Marion County Sheriff's Office

While new confirmed cases of COVID-19 are at their lowest levels in months in Oregon, the ongoing wildfires could affect efforts to slow the spread of the virus that causes it.

Marion County is among the hardest hit parts of the state for both wildfires and the coronavirus. A public health rep told county commissioners that some staff members who worked as contact tracers have had to evacuate their homes. More than a dozen staff members have been redeployed to work on fire response.

Extremely poor air quality has led to the cancellation of several outdoor testing events. And, to compound the problem, health officials expect an increase in cases due to evacuees who are unable to social distance.

The Oregon Health Authority says regardless of someone’s COVID-19 status, their first priority should be to evacuate if asked to do so.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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