Live updates: As Oregon reports slow decline in COVID-19 diagnoses, governor urges residents to do more

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB) and Amelia Templeton (OPB)
Aug. 22, 2020 1 p.m. Updated: Aug. 22, 2020 10:15 p.m.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 302 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases Saturday, spread across 24 of the state’s 36 counties. Multnomah County had the most — 56 cases.

State officials announced three additional deaths from the virus — all occurring at least a week ago — bringing Oregon’s death toll since the pandemic began to 417.


An apparently otherwise healthy 37-year-old woman from Multnomah County tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 10 and died last Saturday, Aug. 15, at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, according to OHA. State figures show that Multnomah County has by far the most COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, with 109. The next-closest death toll is in Marion County, with 75.

A 60-year-old man in Marion County died Aug. 3, and a 98-year-old woman in Yamhill County died on Aug. 15.

Governor asks Oregonians to do more to limit spread of COVID-19

Oregon’s governor pleaded with Oregonians Friday to more rigidly follow state COVID-19 guidelines. Gov. Kate Brown warned that more stringent restrictions on businesses and travel could come next month if transmission rates don’t improve, and that in-class learning cannot resume until the state does better.

In a briefing that was at times stern and at times celebratory, the governor said that a large number of Oregonians are making the sacrifices asked of them and the spread of the coronavirus has been slowed.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Brown said. “We all want in-person education to reopen. To do that, we must meet our goals. Right now, on the course that we are on, it’s going to take too long. We are doing well, but we have to do it better, and we have to do it now.”

Brown said new COVID-19 diagnoses need to drop to 60 per day to allow schools to resume regular operations statewide.

Related: Gov. Brown warns of mandatory restrictions without better compliance on COVID-19 guidelines

Oregonians line up for emergency relief payments, funds run out

The money’s all gone. Oregon has distributed nearly all the $500 emergency relief checks it had funding for, just three days after the program launched. Checks were to help people who have not been able to access unemployment benefits.

Oregonians stood in long lines starting Wednesday, and had claimed close to half of the $35 million allocated by the end of just the second day of the program’s operation. By midday Friday, the funds had been nearly depleted. State officials said people who scheduled appointments would still be considered, but no new appointments are available.

“These last couple days have put a spotlight on just how dire the need is all across the state,” House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in a statement. “We have to get more money to help people. The federal government has the ability to make direct stimulus payments to Americans whose lives are in jeopardy and are not doing so. I find this incredibly frustrating and disappointing.”


These one-time payments were available through a number of banks and credit unions, but were restricted to people whose pre-tax income was less than $4,000 per month when they were working, and who are not presently receiving unemployment benefits.

Related: Oregon runs out of $500 emergency relief payments

Coronavirus transmission slows, as forecasts outline three possible futures

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state epidemiologist, said Friday that COVID-19 transmission in the state has been slowing since early July.

“The actions we’re taking are working at flattening the curve,” he said.

The state has updated its forecast for the coming month, Sidelinger said. He outlined three possible scenarios:

  • At the current transmission rate, Oregon will continue to see about 900 new COVID-19 infections each week for the next four weeks, with about 19 people entering hospitals each day due to severe infections.
  • If transmission can be decreased by 10%, the state would see about 300 new infections each week and about 11 people entering hospitals each day due to severe infections.
  • If transmission increases, the state would see 1,300 new infections each week and about 30 new people entering hospitals each day due to severe infections.

As third inmate death announced, Oregon prisons step back from phone restrictions

Oregon prisons are putting plans to restrict inmate phone calls on hold, after attorneys raised concerns about already-limited access to clients due to COVID-19.

This news emerged as the Oregon Department of Corrections also announced a third COVID-19 related death of an inmate in its custody. Officials with the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton provided some details about the deceased, including that the inmate was between 60 and 70 years old and he died at a local hospital. More than 200 people associated with the prison have tested positive for the virus — 193 inmates, and 19 employees.

Nationwide, jails and prisons have been the sites of numerous COVID-19 outbreaks, as corrections departments have been subject to multiple legal complaints about safety at its prisons. Some inmates have been released to ease crowding concerns, and in-person visits have been suspended to limit transmission.

Against that backdrop, Oregon’s Department of Corrections originally announced a rule, set to go into effect sometime this week, that would have required attorneys to prove their clients had a court deadline within 60 days to set up a free, confidential legal call at all correctional facilities in the state. Attorneys responded with outrage at any new policy that could limit contact with clients amid the coronavirus pandemic — prompting the state to step back from its plan to restrict calls, for now.

“After much discussion with DOC’s executive team, legal counsel and feedback from other key stakeholders, the department has made the decision to not implement the AIC [adult in custody] communication rule during the COVID-19 health crisis,” said Jennifer Black, the Oregon Department of Corrections’ communications manager.

Related: Oregon Department of Corrections walks back new phone policy

Clark County, Washington, reports 7 new diagnoses

Health officials in Clark County, Washington, reported Friday that another seven people tested positive for COVID-19, and none died. Since the start of the pandemic, 2,385 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the county, and 45 have died.

Statewide, Washington has confirmed 69,779 COVID-19 diagnoses, 1,850 deaths and 6,469 hospitalizations linked to the virus, according to the latest figures available.