Live updates: Data shows decline in Oregon COVID-19 infections, though not in deaths

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB)
Sept. 3, 2020 1:28 p.m. Updated: Sept. 3, 2020 10:39 p.m.

The Oregon Health Authority reported three new COVID-19 deaths Thursday, raising the pandemic’s death toll in the state to 470. Officials also reported 274 new diagnoses. Since the coronavirus was first detected in Oregon, 27,336 people have been diagnosed, and 5,174 people have been declared recovered.

The people whose deaths were announced Thursday all had underlying medical conditions. They were:

  • A 56-year-old Washington County man who tested positive on Aug. 1 and died on Aug. 22 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
  • A 79-year-old Malheur County man who tested positive on July 14 and died Aug. 23 at Vibra Hospital in Boise, Idaho.
  • A 96-year-old Marion County woman who tested positive on July 8 and died at home on Aug. 21.

Though new diagnoses ticked up some Thursday, the spread of coronavirus seems to be slowing statewide. The Oregon Health Authority reported 140 COVID-19 diagnoses Wednesday, the fewest new cases the state had seen any day since late June and part of a weeks-long decline.

New infections fell 8.6% last week from the week before, according to state health officials, and appear to be falling even more this week. Of all people tested for the coronavirus, 4.4% tested positive last week, the lowest in two months, the state said Wednesday.

The number of Oregonians who died of COVID-19 last week climbed, however: the state reported 39 deaths from Aug. 24-30, up from 32 deaths the week prior.

Oregon double-counted a 37-year-old woman’s death

Last week, the Oregon Health Authority reported two COVID-19 deaths of people under 40 in two days, in what appeared to be an alarming, though short, streak for a virus that has disproportionately been fatal for older people. On Thursday, the state agency said that one of those deaths was accidentally reported twice.

The 37-year-old Washington County woman whose death was reported on Aug. 29 was also counted in the state’s Aug. 22 coronavirus tally.

The Oregon Health Authority said a data compilation error was to blame. It has since updated its coronavirus statistics. “OHA regrets the error,” the agency said in a press release.


COVID-19 is changing daily life for firefighters deployed to large conflagrations

Thousands of firefighters, crew bosses, contractors and other support personnel are now deployed to major wildfires across the West. It’s the first real big test to whether federal and state COVID-19 safety protocols for wildland firefighting are working and are stringent enough.

About 400 firefighters have been deployed to the the Indian Creek Fire in Eastern Oregon. Fire managers say they’ve only had one suspected coronavirus case since the fire ignited in August, but fortunately it turned out to be negative.

Deputy incident commander Lonnie Click said the fire’s command post and accompanying camp in Vale, Oregon, are only a skeleton of what you’d normally see. Instead of setting up in a crowded communal camp, he said, most of his firefighters are staying out in so-called “spike camps” closer to the fire line itself.

Related: Wildfires test COVID-19 firefighter safety plans

School starts in Portland — minus the classroom

Wednesday was the first day of fall classes for Portland Public Schools students. The district is calling the beginning of remote learning a “soft start.” But despite the “soft” label, a lot of families, teachers and students are worried about how hard it all seems to return to remote learning.

Under Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 standards for school reopening, most Oregon schools will remain closed for at least the first two months of the school year. Lower COVID-19 rates in more rural counties have allowed some schools to open, especially for younger students.

Related: Portland Public School students return to (virtual) class

Clark County, Washington, reports no deaths Thursday

Another 39 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Clark County, Washington, the local public health department reported Thursday. To date, 2,688 Clark County residents have tested positive for the virus, and 51 have died.

Since the start of the pandemic, 75,856 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington, and 1,945 have died, according to the latest count available from the state.