Lincoln County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported last week that Lincoln County had two residents die relating to COVID-19.
On Nov. 25, Public Health reported its first death since Aug. 15. The person was a 27-year-old man who tested positive on Nov. 18 and died on Nov. 17 in his residence. He was tested posthumously and had underlying conditions. OHA announced a second death on Nov. 27. This person was a 72-year-old woman who tested positive on Nov. 17 and died on Nov. 16 at her residence. She had underlying conditions as well.
OHA considers COVID-19 deaths to be:
- Deaths in which a patient hospitalized for any reason within 14 days of a positive COVID-19 test result dies in the hospital or within the 60 days following discharge.
- Deaths in which COVID-19 is listed as a primary or contributing cause of death on a death certificate.
OHA counts COVID-19 deaths this way because the virus can often have effects on an individual’s health that may complicate their recovery from other diseases and conditions, even injuries and indirectly contribute to their death, Public Health officials said last week. COVID weakens the immune system so it would really be difficult if not impossible to determine whether or not the virus was a contributing factor in each death.
Another reason is because OHA is using this data to track the spread of the disease, and to create actionable steps for stopping its spread.
On Monday, Nov. 30, Rebecca Austen, Health Department Director, said Lincoln County had 58 new cases of COVID-19 over the course of last week.
“The trend is up, noticeably up. But we are holding our own,” Austen said at the Board of Commissioners meeting.
Florence Pourtal, Deputy Director of Public Health said Monday that they’ve seen a chain reaction when it comes to the latest spread of the virus. Portal said it gets passed during a social gathering, that gathering outbreak leads to a workplace outbreak, then to a school outbreak.
“We need to keep in mind that it is very important for us to all work together and work with the public health team,” Portal said. “If we’re not working together, one part of the team can work really hard but they still won’t be able to stop the spread.”
Austen said Public Health is currently monitoring about 15 active outbreaks across Lincoln County, which has provided challenges in mitigation.
“There’s not really a pattern,” Austen said. “They’re businesses, they’re social gatherings, so they’re kind of all over the place. It’s mostly, I believe, bad decisions… Everybody is really exhausted from this. They don’t want to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past 10-11 months.”
Austen said they’ve heard reports of large social gatherings, people not quarantining after testing positive, one individual, Austen said, went back to work after testing positive.
“It’s been kind of unbelievable, some of the stories we’ve been hearing,” Austen said.
As the statewide ‘Freeze’ ends this week, Austen informed the Board of Commissioners that Oregon would be moving into a new framework of reopening on Dec. 3 that will replace the three phase reopening process.
“We have to calculate things a little bit differently but it’s to help us really line up with the schools,” Austen said. “I think that’s an important thing to remember. Even though i know we are so weary of this, and we just want to throw our hands up and say enough is enough. But I think the reason why we keep making those calls and keep encouraging people to quarantine and isolate… is because we are trying so desperately to get our schools open.”
The new reopening metrics will be set individual counties into categories of: low risk, moderate risk, high risk or extreme risk. Counties are given a case rate per 100,000 people that they cannot exceed or else they move into a different risk category that could mean tighter restrictions.
In Lincoln County, Austen said they would’ve be classified as low risk for the first half of November at 44 cases per 100,000 people. However, after a spike in cases over the last two weeks, Lincoln County now sits at 161 cases per 100,000 people, which would move them into the high risk category.
The new metric will be measured every two weeks, Austen said, creating a whole new set of challenges for public health officials.
“It is a bit of a communication nightmare, but this whole thing has been a communication nightmare,” Austen said. “As things continue to change, it’s really hard to make sure everyone knows what’s going on. We will try to be clear about what the high risk restrictions will be once we get put into that, which we anticipate to happen.”