By MATT McDONALD
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS DIRECTOR
Go to downtown Bend at lunch and you will find empty streets, deserted sidewalks and closed signs on many business doors.
Social distancing is having a profound effect on the daily lives of thousands of people in Central Oregon, but it may be working.
“What we’ve been doing seems to be working. And that likely we’ve cut down transmission or infections in Oregon by 50 to 70%,” said Dr. Dene Sidelinger, Oregon’s State Health Officer and Epidemiologist.
During a virtual press briefing this afternoon, Sidelinger was joined by Oregon Office of Emergency Management director Andrew Phelps to discuss projections of the disease’s spread in the state.
New projections from health researchers show there is “strong evidence that measures currently in place in Oregon are reducing transmission,” but these measures need to be maintained to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections in Oregon.
The goal is to “flatten the curve”, a popular way of describing slowing the COVID-19 infection rate to a point it does not overwhelm the medical resources available.
On Tuesday the Oregon Health Authority reported that if Oregonians can maintain current social distancing efforts and the current projections hold true, the state could meet the likely demand for hospital beds under current strategies.
“We’ve seen quite a few of our community members make significant changes in their behavior to follow the Stay Home Stay Safe order,” said Morgan Emerson from Deschutes County Health Department.
Deschutes County is reporting just 32 positive COVID-19 cases out of a population of nearly 200,000.
Emerson cautions, while the state is reporting good progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, we don’t know yet if the same results are being reflected on the High Desert.
“It’s a little bit too early to have concrete numbers of how much staying home is helping directly in our community,” Emerson said.
Oregon’s lead epidemiologist warned, the projections statewide only hold true if people continue to practice social distancing.
“The disease can come back if we relax our community mitigation measures, if we go out and start joining again,” Dr. Sidelinger said.