Governor Kate Brown said more COVID-19 (Coronavirus) testing is on its way to Oregon as daily case counts continue to rise statewide.
Ahead of the cold and rainy Oregon Fall and Winter seasons, Gov. Brown held a press conference Oct. 6 to discuss the State’s effort to continue reduce the spread of the virus. The governor was joined by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Pat Allen and Dr. Melissa Sutton, Senior Health Advisor for OHA.
“Because of COVID, this year, we have learned to live with separation, grief and ever-present uncertainty. I know it hasn’t been easy,” Gov. Brown said in her opening remarks. “Parents have really struggled with difficult choices, sending kids to daycare or school, or continuing the impossible task of working from home while parenting and teaching.”
Allen gave some of the latest statistics for COVID-19 that includes over 35,000 positive cases in Oregon and 581 deaths related to the virus. Allen said there has been a steady increase of daily cases over the past few weeks, with a 25 percent increase since Aug. 31. Oregon has recorded on average 285 new cases per day with a large portion stemming from social gatherings, according to OHA.
“We have reversed the progress we made during the summer,” Allen said. “Our latest modeling shows the virus is spreading more rapidly.”
Gov. Brown said the rise in cases was to be expected after Labor Day weekend and the intense wildfires that forced people from their homes. OHA has a growing concern of seeing more spikes in case counts as the weather shifts and forces people inside, where the virus spreads more easily.
“I can only imagine if we are sick of COVID and physical distancing now, it’s only going to get harder as we enter the winter months ahead of us,” Gov. Brown said.
“We see over and over again that COVID does not discriminate, it doesn’t matter if you are old or young, it doesn’t matter your race, your political beliefs or your religion. It doesn’t even matter if you’re president of the United States. COVID can find a way to any of us.”
OHA continues to study the virus and find new ways to mitigate the spread. One tool they will be utilizing in the coming months will be the maximized testing capacity coming from the federal government. Gov. Brown said more than 100 million rapid antigen tests will be divided throughout the United States through the end of 2020.
Oregon is expected to receive roughly 80,000 tests per week.
“This is huge,” Gov. Brown said. “But let me be very clear with all of you, it’s not going to solve all of our problems or answer all of the questions about the virus.”
Allen said OHA is looking forward to utilizing this increase in testing capacity that should double what Oregon has right now.
“This added capacity also allows us to expand our testing guidelines,” Allen noted.
“Under new guidelines, we are not only recommending testing for everyone that has the symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of the severity of their symptoms, we’re also recommending testing of all close contacts of people infected, regardless of whether the close contact has any symptoms.”
The increased testing will be used to identify more cases and spots where the virus is hiding in communities, while also cutting off paths of spread. Testing will be prioritized for most vulnerable communities, migrant, agriculture workers, communities of color and senior citizens.
Although testing is a great tool for health care workers, Gov. Brown said it is not a ‘cure-all.’
“We cannot test our way out of this pandemic,” Gov. Brown said.
Dr. Sutton gave a few details on the rapid antigen tests that have “strengths and limitations,” according to Allen. Dr. Sutton said although the tests are very reliable in identify a positive COVID-19 case, it is also not uncommon to receive a false negative, even if you have symptoms.
Regardless of the test result, health officials continue to urge individuals to follow safety recommendations of washing your hands, staying six feet apart and wearing a face covering. OHA is also recommending everyone getting their flu vaccine as well.
Additionally, Gov. Brown said the increased testing won’t allow reopening of schools on its own. OHA and the State will be reevaluating school metrics in the coming weeks.
“We will get there,” Gov. Brown said. “Just remember, when you’re having a tough COVID day, always know that there is someone nearby that’s feeling the same way you are and is continuing with all of these safety measures because we all know that the more we do them together, the quicker we will find a way out of this crisis.”