Despite the proliferation of the Covid-19 vaccine, infection rates have been moving the wrong direction for several weeks, with Clackamas County now on the cusp of moving backward in the state’s framework for reopening businesses.
Under the latest evaluation standards from Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, county risk levels are assessed every two weeks based on two metrics: the number of new cases per 100,000 residents, and the percentage of Covid-19 test results that come back positive.
The county’s latest test positivity rate — 4.2% — is still comfortably below the 7% threshold that would signal a return to the higher risk category for Clackamas.
The problem is the cases. To remain at the moderate risk stage, Clackamas County must stay under 100 new cases per 100,000. But that metric has trended sharply upward over the past month, from 81.7 per 100,000 in the two-week period ending March 6 — 98.7 as in the term that ended March 20.
“We’re still seeing our positive Covid-19 cases go up,” said county spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie. “And if they go up much more, we will be forced to go back into a high-risk category.”
A move back to high risk would mean significantly reduced capacity in restaurants, gyms and other businesses — from 50% at the current level to only 25% in most establishments.
“That is something we certainly do not what to have happen,” Dr. Philip Mason-Joyner, director of Clackamas County Public Health, said in a March 25 update with Clackamas County commissioners.
“With spring break, with schools reopening, we really need the community and all of us through our individual actions to continue to follow those tried-and-true public health precautions: wearing masks, keeping distance, practicing good hygiene and, if you are feeling unwell, staying home and staying away from others.”
Mason-Joyner said several large outbreaks have been traced to sporting events and other gatherings, as well as workplaces.
Clackamas County, OR on Twitter: “Our COVID-19 cases are rising. In this update, our Public Health Director talks about why and provides the latest update on supply of the vaccine and vaccine clinics in our region. https://t.co/A4T2vR0VJv pic.twitter.com/DqOoLvaJJP / Twitter”
Our COVID-19 cases are rising. In this update, our Public Health Director talks about why and provides the latest update on supply of the vaccine and vaccine clinics in our region. https://t.co/A4T2vR0VJv pic.twitter.com/DqOoLvaJJP
All is not lost, however. Even if the county’s number do cross the line of 100 cases per 100,000 in the next reporting period, the state is now offering a two-week grace period to correct the trend before being officially moved to “high risk.”
And, Mason-Joyner was hopeful that the efforts of residents — as well as local vaccination clinics that began immunizing hundreds and even thousands of residents this week — will help head off the potential economic catastrophe.
Two clinics hosted at Clackamas Town Center immunized thousands of eligible residents. Another, planned for the Clackamas County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, saw its 500 slots fill up almost as soon as it was announced last week.
Mason-Joyner said Thursday that more than 90,000 Clackamas Countians — about a quarter of the county’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
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