On Saturday, the Oregon Health Authority reported three more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 417 people.
The newly reported deaths include a 37-year-old woman in Multnomah County. She tested positive on Aug. 10 and died on Aug. 15 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, and had no known underlying medical conditions. Due to patient privacy laws, hospital and government officials are not sharing more specific information about her.
Local public health officials say her death, like that of 34-year-old Vancouver man Danh Tran, underscores how little we understand about the factors that put some healthy younger people at risk for severe and even fatal infections.
“All COVID deaths are losses, of course, to friends and family. This one in particular gets our attention because it’s in someone so young, who you would not maybe have expected to succumb to the virus,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health officer.
“I think the bottom line, and what I hear from my medical colleagues, is that this is essentially a roll of the dice across the lifespan, clearly in older groups but including in younger groups. Even regionally, we see about 1 in 20 people in their thirties with the virus are hospitalized.”
Age is by far the most significant risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19. In Oregon, about 75 percent of deaths from the virus are people who were 70 and over.
Vines said with any infection, it’s normal to see a spectrum of illness that can range from no sign of the disease to severe or even fatal symptoms.
Scientists are exploring a number of theories as to why some people get severely ill from COVID, including genetic factors that affect a person’s immune response, as well as variation in the viral load — or the amount of virus particles present in a person’s body.
Vines said everyone in Multnomah County should take a moment to consider their own family’s precautions against COVID-19, and one additional thing they can do to make themselves safer and lessen the chance they pass the virus to someone who is fragile and might not survive it.
“Whether that is stepping up the use of face coverings, whether it is rescheduling a social gathering to be outside or by Zoom, or whether it is deciding to limit contact with people you haven’t seen in a while,” Vines said.
“If we all just did a little bit extra, across the board it could make a big difference.”