Rural Oregon Counties are suffering uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19

Media Contacts
Numi Lee Griffith

OSPIRG calls on the state to take immediate action to stop the spread


SALEM – after nearly three months of fairly stable case numbers, new Sars-Cov-2 (“COVID-19”) infections have begun spiking in Oregon.  On June 16, the Oregon Health Authority reported a record 278 new cases of COVID-19, following 184 new cases on Monday, also a record high.  This follows two major outbreaks in rural counties – an outbreak of at least 129 cases at a Pacific Seafoods plant in Newport, and an outbreak of at least 236 cases following large indoor gatherings at a church in Union County.

Under Governor Brown’s “Building a Safe and Strong Oregon” plan, counties that fail key health metrics may need to reimpose business restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.  This includes measures such as the percentage of COVID tests that are returned positive, the percentage of new cases that can be traced to a known source of infection, and the amount of time that it takes for the County to complete the contact tracing process.  The Oregonian reports that Lincoln County’s staff of seven contact tracers will probably take over two weeks to complete contact tracing for the Newport outbreak.  Union County, which is currently experiencing an even larger outbreak, had only three contact tracers available when it reopened.

Other Oregon Counties where cases have seen a sustained increase over the last two weeks include: Clackamas, Hood River, Klamath, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla, and Washington. 

OSPIRG Healthcare Advocate Numi Lee Griffith released the following statement:

“The trends we’ve seen over the last two weeks, including rising case-positivity, a high proportion of untraced cases, and increasing hospitalization numbers for COVID-like illness, are clear indications that we are not effectively containing community spread of the novel coronavirus.  Recent ‘super-spreading’ events in Lincoln County and Union County have completely outstripped limited local contact-tracing capacity, making effective implementation of Gov. Brown’s ‘test, trace, and isolate’ strategy nearly impossible.”

From the very beginning, we’ve known that we may need to put restrictions back in place as new outbreaks emerge.  Oregon needs to act quickly to contain the outbreaks throughout the state.  A ‘yellow light’ isn’t enough – the state needs to take a close look at these counties and consider reimposing restrictions, whether by moving the area back to an earlier ‘phase’ of reopening, or by putting more targeted regulations in place.”