State health officials celebrated falling COVID-19 transmission rates on Friday and also urged Oregonians to avoid social gatherings despite the temptations of the coming Labor Day weekend.

At the current transmission rate of 0.9, there are roughly nine new coronavirus infections for every 10 people who currently have the virus — a trend that will lead to a gradual decline in infections if it continues.

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“This is tremendous progress, but it will only continue if we keep up the pressure,” state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a statement. “We cannot ease up and allow Labor Day social gatherings to send our rate back up. This virus remains extremely contagious and spreads very quickly. It would not take much for cases to rise again.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority, about 560 people contract COVID-19 in Oregon each day — a number that’s higher than the state’s official count because it includes an estimate of those who contract the virus but are never diagnosed.

In a forecast of the coming three weeks, the agency outlines three possible scenarios:

  • Status quo: If Oregon maintains its 0.9 transmission rate, new COVID-19 cases would fall from 560 per day now to 410 per day by Sept. 24. In this scenario, the state would see about six severe coronavirus cases per day.
  • Getting better: If Oregon is able to reduce its transmission rate to 0.77, new COVID-19 cases would fall to 240 per day by Sept. 24. The state would see about five severe infections each day.
  • Getting worse: If Oregon’s transmission rate climbs to 1.05, new COVID-19 cases would climb to about 790 per day, with about 11 severe infections each day.

“We’ve made great progress through hard work and sacrifice, but those gains are tenuous,” Sidelinger said. “It’s on every one of us to maintain the progress we’ve made against COVID-19, and together we can do it.”

Bend officials ask tourists to stay home

Bend leaders are again asking tourists to stay away and lodgings not to let them book short-term accommodations. The Central Oregon city seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, so that in-person schooling can resume.

City leaders issued their initial non-binding administrative order in July, and it was set to expire on Labor Day. The new order is now in effect through Oct. 26 — the point at which the Bend-La Pine School District could consider some version of hybrid or in-class learning.

Related: Bend extends order discouraging recreational travel

Pools and playgrounds allowed to reopen across Oregon

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Playgrounds and public pools will soon be open across Oregon.

These recreational facilities have been closed in some counties since March, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown enacted her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders to curb the spread of COVID-19. While pools and playgrounds are already open in counties that have qualified to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening. In Phase 1 counties, pools and playgrounds have remained closed.

But in a press conference Friday, Brown announced that these counties, too, will be able to open playgrounds and pools in every phase of reopening.

“We’re gradually looking at reopening some lower-risk activities, such as reopening public pools and playgrounds,” Sidelinger said. “We are moving forward with science and safety in mind.”

Sidelinger said that reopening is possible for two reasons: the declining COVID-19 transmission rate in the state and ever-increasing evidence that shows transmission is much less likely outdoors, including in swimming pools.

Related: Oregon moves to open playgrounds, public pools

Oregon reports 5 coronavirus deaths, 268 diagnoses

Oregon reported five more deaths linked to COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the virus’ death toll in the state to 480.

The Oregon Health Authority also confirmed 261 new coronavirus diagnoses, bringing the Oregon to 27,856 known cases since the start of the pandemic.

Four of the five people whose deaths were announced Saturday had underlying medical conditions. They were:

  • A 53-year-old Marion County man who tested positive Aug. 17 and died Sept. 3 at Salem Hospital.
  • A 70-year-old Clackamas County man who became symptomatic Aug. 4 and died Aug. 15 at Providence Willamette Valley Medical Center.
  • A 78-year-old Washington County man who tested positive Aug. 22 and died Sept. 4 at his home.
  • An 80-year-old Multnomah County woman who tested positive Aug. 3 and died Sept. 2 at her home.

Officials are still determining if underlying medical conditions were a factor in the fifth COVID-19 death announced Saturday, a 68-year-old Umatilla County man who tested positive June 21 and died at his home July 16.

Clark County, Washington, reports no deaths Friday

Another 27 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Clark County, Washington, the local public health department reported Friday. To date, 2,715 Clark County residents have tested positive for the virus, and 51 have died.

Since the start of the pandemic, 76,335 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington, and 1,953 have died, according to the latest counts available from the state.

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