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Lincoln County Public Health sponsored a free testing event in four areas across the county last week. Over 1,100 people were tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 and Health Department Director, Rebecca Austen, RN, said they are already starting to see some results.

“Even though our hope is that this testing will confirm that we have not hit the exponential increase that other areas of the state and country have experienced, we are expecting to get a few positive results from this mass testing event,” Austen said in a weekly update.

At the regularly scheduled Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 16, Austen reported that Lincoln County has had 21 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, 10 of them have been attributed to the testing event. This past week Austen noted that their have been record breaking case numbers in the United States and Oregon. The U.S. had over 172,000 cases reported on Friday November 13, and Oregon saw three consecutive days of over 1,000 new cases reported.

“When you look at our data, we look like we’re kind of hanging in there,” Austen said. “Especially with our mass testing.”

Current test results in Lincoln County show that the county has not seen this same increase in infection. Local hospitals reported that they have capacity and are not overwhelmed, according to Austen. This is not the case in other areas of the state.

So, what can we do here in Lincoln County to keep our numbers low? Austen said continue doing what you’re doing.

“You have all sacrificed for nine months and done an exceptional job of wearing your mask, physical distancing, washing hands, staying home when sick and limiting your social get togethers. And yet, we must keep going,” Austen said. “Now is also the time to get your flu shot. Our hope is that this freeze is only for two weeks – and I believe we can do that.”

With the Thanksgiving holiday taking place during the two-week pause, Austen offered some ways to safely celebrate.

“If you observe Thanksgiving, there are ways to celebrate without our traditional large family gatherings - as painful as that is,” Austen said. “You can dine with one other household and limit your gathering to six people. If you live alone, choose no more than 5 people that you will socialize with. If you have extended family, try a family zoom call or phone call. Play a game of football outside or go on a walk, then celebrate with your household only at dinner. Bake your famous cookies now and send to family through the mail so all can share in a treasured family recipe. This is an opportunity to create a new family tradition.”

There has been a lot of questions surrounding schools and the rise in case counts. The key metric for schools to open is for the test positivity rate to remain below five percent; last week Lincoln County was at 2.7 percent. In terms of the mass testing event, Austen said 55 of the 1,100 tests would have to be positive for Lincoln County to pass that threshold.

Austen, acknowledge the anxiety from families over the uncertainty of having kids back in class, but assured that the science has backed Lincoln County’s response.

“The science is showing us that if our rate of transmission is low in the community, there is no sign that opening schools will increase that number,” Austen said. “It’s really important to hang on to that.”

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