SALEM — While the nation passed 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, there were some relatively encouraging numbers about a decline of the infection rate in Oregon and a plateau of the high numbers of infections across the country.
In a small bit of hopeful news, The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reported Wednesday, July 29, that at the national level, the U.S. may be approaching a peak or plateau. "The increasing trend is beginning to taper off," the center's most recent report said.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said there were new problem areas lurking within the latest numbers.
“Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana are starting to show that very subtle increase in percent positives among the total tested," Fauci said in an interview with ABC News. “Which is a surefire hint that you may be getting into the same sort of trouble with those states that the Southern states got into trouble with.”
Daily numbers: Oregon reported 304 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths July 29. Three of the deaths were in Umatilla County, three were in Multnomah County and one each in Jackson and Morrow counties. The youngest victim was a 65-year-old man, while the oldest was a 94-year-old woman. The state has recorded a total of 17,721 cases and 311 deaths.
Nation and world: The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a top independent monitor of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported that there have been 4.4 million cases in the United States, with 150,090 deaths. Worldwide, there have been 16.8 million cases and 662,648 deaths.
Infections down: Oregon's weekly report showed that from July 20–26, 5.1 percent of tests came back positive, down from 6.6 percent last week. Morrow County had the highest positive rate: 39.6%. Rates in hard-hit Umatilla were down to 17.9% and fell in Malheur County to 20.8%. State health officials said large outbreaks are a diminishing proportion of recent cases. Most case are those not linked to another case, which is a sign of diffuse community spread.
Deschutes County dropped to 4.6 percent and Crook County fell to 2.6 percent. Jackson County was one of the few Oregon Counties showing an increase, now up to 17.1%. Clatsop County had a .9% infection rate, while Columbia County was at 1.9%. Lincoln County was at 1%)
Zip code cases: For the week ending July 26, Warm Springs, home to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, had the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people in the state. The top 10 zip codes in Oregon with the highest number of cases per 10,000 residents:
- 97761 — Warm Springs, 403.8
- 97838 — Hermiston, 402.0
- 97818 — Boardman, 367.9
- 97882 — Umatilla, 317.0
- 97875 — Stanfield, 310.3
- 97365 — Newport, 283.9
- 97914 — Ontario, 222.9
- 97844 — Irrigon, 218.1
- 97026 — Gervais, 209.7
High plateau: Since over 75,000 new cases were reported nationwide on July 16, the five-day average of cases has held steady at about just under 66,000 new cases per day, according to a New York Times analysis of state and local statistics. That is twice as high as the April 10 peak of the original COVID-19 outbreak, when the five-day average was 33,000. The five-day average had dipped as low as fewer than 26,000 cases per day in mid-June, before the impact of several states' reopenings sent the numbers up again.
Youngest fatality: But this past week, a 40-year-old woman in Yamhill County and a 26-year-old man were reported to have died from the coronavirus. In Oregon, the 20-29 year old age group makes up the largest share of new infections, 22%. But less than 2.6% of the age group require hospitalization.
Fatalities climb by age: Oregon's fatality figures by age shifted slightly with the new reports. According to the Oregon Health Authority, less than 1% of those under 50 have died from COVID-19. About 1% of those 50 to 59 have died. The figure climbs to 4% for 60-69, 9% for 70-79 and 23% for those over 80.
Idaho connection: Malheur County is the only one of Oregon's 36 counties that is in the Mountain time zone. That's because much of its economy is tied to nearby Boise, Idaho. There's also a connection between Malheur County and western Idaho when it comes to COVID-19. Comparative state statistics from this past weekend show Malheur County has one of the highest current levels of infection, 40 per 100,000 residents. Just across the state line, Canyon County, considered one of the current coronavirus hot spots in the nation, has 58 cases per 100,000. Just to the east of Canyon County is Ada County, which has 36 cases per 100,000. Idaho has been much less restrictive on mandatory prevention mandates such as wearing masks indoors.
Other cross-border outbreaks: Umatilla County has one of Oregon's highest infection rates at 80 cases per 100,000. Across the state line in Washington, Franklin County has 39 cases per 100,000. California has been one of the national hot spots, particularly in Southern California and the Bay Area. But some northern California counties have had spikes as well. Colusa County has 33 cases per 100,000 and Glenn County has 25 cases per 100,000. Counties along the Oregon-California border are currently within lower limits. Case numbers have been climbing in Nevada, but the hot spots are primarily in the southern part of the state around Las Vegas. Overall, cases are leveling off in Oregon, Idaho and California, though at much higher levels than in June. Nevada has an overall increase in case rates.
Death rates still climbing: Though there are signs of infection levels plateauing, deaths continue to rise — they normally lag infection rates by about three weeks. Oregon, California, Idaho and Nevada are among 23 states in the U.S. that have seen death rates rise over the past two weeks compared to the prior two weeks.
Long-term care facilities fatalities: The New York Times reported July 25 that through July 23, long-term care facilities make up only 8 percent of total COVID-19 cases nationwide, but 43 percent of deaths — 59,000 total. The Times report showed Oregon’s rate is 53 percent of deaths in long-term care facilities, the 20th highest among the states.
Prison pandemic: Correctional institutions have been another area of major outbreaks. The OHA reports the top five total cases linked to one place in Oregon are: Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, 185 cases; Pacific Seafood in Newport, 183 cases; Lamb Weston potato processing facility in Hermiston, 161 cases; Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, 132 cases, and Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, 69 cases. Only the Pacific Seafood outbreak is considered contained.
Hospital counts: The top five hospitals this week reporting confirmed or likely COVID-19 hospitalizations: Providence Portland Medical Center, 28 cases; Salem Health Hospital, 27 cases; Oregon Health Science University Hospital, 25 cases; St. Charles Bend, 22 cases; and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center (Portland), 20 cases.