UPDATE (3:39 p.m. PT) — Oregon has hit a troubling milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of confirmed or presumptive positive cases reached 437 — a record tally for a single day since the virus first was confirmed in the state more than four months ago. The Oregon Health Authority said that the more densely-populated Portland area is again driving the rise in case numbers, with more than 200 cases across Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.
Known hot spots away from Portland are also pushing numbers up, with Marion County reporting 53 cases and Umatilla County reporting the most cases outside the Willamette Valley, with 50.
OHA officials say the outbreaks are occurring "when people get together to celebrate with family and friends," including at graduations, birthdays, weddings and holidays.
State officials also noted two more coronavirus-related deaths, both in Malheur County, in Oregon's southeastern corner. One was a 97-year-old man who died yesterday after testing positive on June 29. The other was a 58-year-old woman who died July 13 after testing positive a week before.
Officials continue to urge people to wear masks, limit the size of gatherings, keep a distance from each other and "find alternative ways for those who are vulnerable to participate" at events.
COVID outbreak reported at a memory care center in Bend
An outbreak at the Mt. Bachelor Memory Care center in Bend has left officials working to discover the origin case. One person tested positive on Saturday, according to The Bulletin.
As of Thursday morning, health officials have confirmed more than 20 positive cases at the center — including residents and staff members. There are still more tests pending. So far, none of the people who have tested positive have needed hospitalization.
The center has paused the intake of new residents due to the outbreak.
Oregon reports 282 new coronavirus cases
The Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday 282 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 diagnoses in the state, and four additional deaths due to the virus. With those cases and deaths, Oregon’s pandemic has now reached 13,081 positive cases and claimed the lives of 247 people.
Related: COVID-19 in Oregon: By the numbers
The highest case numbers were concentrated in the state’s population center around Portland, where more than 130 new cases were identified: 59 cases in Multnomah, 50 in Washington and 24 in Clackamas counties.
Numbers also continue to surge in eastern Oregon, with 27 new known cases reported in Umatilla County and 15 cases in Malheur County.
Three of the four deaths were people in their 60s. All four had underlying health conditions, though as has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, OHA is not disclosing the specific health conditions underlying the deaths.
As of Wednesday, 207 people are hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, including 30 who are on ventilators. Nearly 10% of known reported coronavirus cases thus far have led to hospitalizations.
New Oregon COVID-19 Cases By ZIP Code
This map shows new cases of COVID-19 in each ZIP code in Oregon. ZIP codes are colored by the number of cases per 10,000 residents. ZIPs are shaded to show contrast; rates in Oregon remain lower than most of the U.S.
Jacob Fenton, The Accountability Project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop Sources: OHA's current and prior weekly reports. OHA does not report case counts in smaller ZIP codes, and doesn't provide an exact figure for ZIP codes where fewer than 10 cases have been recorded. ZIP codes are shaded by the lowest possible rate in the new cases view. ZIP code populations and outlines are from Esri's "Updated Demographics 2019" so rates differ from those published by OHA.
Washington at more than 40,000 COVID-19 cases
Health officials in Clark County, Washington, reported 25 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the county's total to 1,344. Public health officials have reported 33 deaths in the county in southwest Washington since the onset of the pandemic.
According to the latest available data, Washington has 42,304 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,404 known deaths. As of Sunday, coronavirus has led to the hospitalization of 4,788 people in Washington.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has warned that if case numbers don't improve, he may have to start shutting down the economy again. Counties throughout the state will have to remain in their current phase of reopening until at least July 28.
Change to how Oregon counts coronavirus recoveries spurs criticism
Late last month, the Oregon Health Authority made a change to the way it assesses whether coronavirus patients in the state have recovered from their illness. Some say that change may be inflating the number of “active” coronavirus cases in Oregon.
The health authority is now using a “60-day rule” to assess the recovery of coronavirus cases. Previously, public health officials would call patients with COVID-19 to track when their symptoms disappear and to assess their recovery.
“It’s an unfortunate change,” Klamath County Public Health Director Jennifer Little said in a news release, “because from a community service perspective it artificially inflates active cases. The new process no longer provides a direct correlation between length of illness and recovery.”
Region's count of coronavirus deaths may have missed hundreds
The carefully followed death toll from COVID-19 may not fully capture the loss of life during the pandemic. An analysis of state and federal statistics for deaths from all causes shows hundreds of additional deaths above normal levels this spring in the Pacific Northwest. Some or many of those may actually be missed COVID-19 deaths.
Based on observed deaths and modeling, the CDC on July 8 found as many as 478 more deaths than usual occurred in Oregon since February.
Those numbers showed that between late March and early May, there was a spike in people dying from other causes alongside the peak in COVID fatalities. The noticeable collateral damage spanned about seven weeks in Washington and around six weeks in Oregon.
Employment agency workers face infections
For the first time, staff from the Oregon Employment Department will process some jobless claims from home — at least temporarily.
When the pandemic first hit, the agency resisted letting claims processors telework, despite rising concern from lawmakers and employees about the threat of office spread. Then employees began to test positive for the coronavirus.
The department is struggling to process a backlog of roughly 60,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. Now, some staff will tackle those claims from home.
The Northwest News Network contributed to this report.
The Bulletin contributed to this report.