Oregon Opens Door To Visits At Care Facilities

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB)
July 20, 2020 1 p.m.

UPDATE (5:35 p.m. PT) — Oregon's Department of Human Services is opening the door to visitations at long-term care facilities - so long as those visits take place outside and don't occur at homes where there have been COVID-19 outbreaks.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Human Services officials said providers would have to develop plans “to adhere to required safeguards to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The announcement acknowledges the fine line officials are attempting to walk – between supporting the mental health of elderly residents of long-term facilities by allowing visits from family and friends, while trying to manage the “significant risk” of the spread of the coronavirus, particularly for older Oregonians.


“We hope this policy provides some relief to residents, their family members and friends who we know have suffered extreme hardship as a result of visitation restrictions required during the pandemic. Balancing resident safety with the essential need to have contact with family and friends is challenging as COVID-19 presents life-threatening risks and spreads rapidly in congregate care settings,” said Mike McCormick, interim director of the DHS Office of Aging and People with Disabilities.

The DHS announcement said that facilities “currently coping with COVID-19 cases” can not allow visits – and the ban on indoor visitation remains in place for all licensed facilities.

According to data from OHA, even thought case numbers are growing most quickly among younger people, older adults are much more likely to be hospitalized by COVID-19. OHA has found that among people between  70 and 79 with COVID-19, 34% are in hospitals. For people over 80, that figure is 39%. In addition, people living in congregate settings, like long-term care facilities, make up a substantial portion of people who have died from the virus.

277 New Cases, 2 Deaths; OHA Warns Of Testing Supply Shortages

While the numbers reported out of the Oregon Health Authority were not as dire as in recent days, the state's public health agency warned of a related "concerning situation." Health officials warn that testing wait times in Oregon could be affected by growing national demand for testing supplies, as COVID-19 cases increase across the country.

OHA reported 277 new confirmed and presumptive cases Monday, with nearly half of those numbers coming from the Portland-area counties of Multnomah (85) and Washington (38). Last week, elected officials representing Clackamas County, which reported 11 new cases Monday, asked that their county be separated from Multnomah and Washington, for reopening decisions.

The state health authority also reported two deaths - both in Marion County involving people with underlying health conditions. One was a 76 year-old man who tested positive on June 22 and died July 17 at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital. The other was a 92 year-old man who tested positive July 8 and died July 18 in his residence.

Public health officials have been emphasizing the importance of timely test results as a key component of tracking the virus and controlling its spread. But in OHA's statement Monday on weekly testing, officials said "several major manufacturers have informed OHA that testing supply allocation are being or may be reduced over the next six to eight weeks due to the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases." OHA said it is "receiving widespread reports of extended turnaround time from commercial laboratories."

More Than Half Of Oregon Coronavirus Deaths Linked To Group Housing

Group housing settings or senior living situations are involved in more than half of deaths due to coronavirus, according to a weekly data report from state health officials.

The Oregon Health Authority is tracking active outbreaks in at least 30 of what the state calls "congregate care facilities," while outbreaks at another 38 of these locations have been resolved.

The state is also tracking about 60 active workplace outbreaks — including at four prisons. The prisons collectively account for 323 COVID-19 diagnoses. The biggest non-prison active workplace outbreaks are at Pacific Seafood in Newport, associated with 181 cases; Lamb Weston in Hermiston, associated with 142 cases; and Bob's Red Mill in Milwaukie, associated with 61 cases.

Older people are much more likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19, but younger people make up a significant share of overall infections, according Oregon Health Authority data.

More people in their 20s have tested positive, or been diagnosed based on exposure and symptoms without a test, than any other age group: 2,941 Oregonians, according to the latest available data. That's about one in five people who've had COVID-19 in the state. But fewer than 3% of 20-somethings have required hospital care.

By contrast, only about 520 people over the age of 80 have been diagnosed with the virus, but 38% of those patients have been hospitalized as a result.

Related: COVID-19 In Oregon: By The Numbers


Oregon reports 436 new COVID-19 cases, 3 new deaths

Oregon was one case shy of matching a dismal record set just days ago, with 436 new COVID-19 diagnoses announced Sunday. State health officials also shared details about the ongoing surge in new infections. The record of 437 new cases in a day was set on Thursday, and daily diagnoses have been gradually ticking up for weeks.

The death rate has not risen alongside new diagnoses, however. Three deaths were reported Sunday, bringing the confirmed death toll due to COVID-19 to 260, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The agency says 14,579 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since the pandemic arrived in Oregon and 3,225 are confirmed to have recovered.

The greater Portland metro area led the state in confirmed and presumptive diagnoses Sunday, with 123 new cases in Multnomah County, 57 in Washington County and 19 in Clackamas County. Away from Portland, diagnoses continue to climb in Umatilla County, which reported 78 new cases, and Marion County, with 46.

The state provided these details about the people whose deaths it announced Sunday:

  • A 90-year-old woman in Marion County died Friday at Salem Hospital after testing positive on July 8. She had underlying conditions.
  • An 80-year-old man died Friday at his home in Marion County after testing positive on July 8. He had underlying conditions.
  • A 62-year-old woman in Multnomah County died Saturday at OHSU Hospital after testing positive on July 14. She had underlying conditions.

Oregon Health Authority data show that statewide, hospitals are generally well equipped to handle the coronavirus cases they are seeing. Of 1,327 Oregonians who have been admitted for COVID-19 care, 357 were admitted to an intensive care unit.

Oregon COVID-19 Map

Jacob Fenton, The Accountability Project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop 

34th death reported in Clark County, Washington

Health officials in Clark County, Washington, said Friday that another 44 people had tested positive for COVID-19 and a man in his 60s had died. It's not clear if the man who died had underlying health conditions.

To date, 1,434 residents of southwest Washington county have tested positive for COVID-19 and 34 people have died.

According to the latest available data, Washington has 46,026 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,444 known deaths. As of Friday, coronavirus has led to the hospitalization of 5,033 people in Washington.

State public health officials said Friday the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated across western Washington since the start of July.

“In these trends, we are seeing the impact of our collective decisions. We are jeopardizing the gains we made as a state with the 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' order, and the actions each one of us takes now will determine what happens next,” Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a press release.

“If we want to send our kids to school in the fall and avoid new restrictions, we must all make a conscious shift in the way we live our lives. That means staying at home as much as possible, reducing how many people we see in person and continuing to wear face coverings and keep physical distance in public.”

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.