▶️ Rural counties to open first; counties prepare for contact tracing

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that rural Oregon counties that meet certain requirements and have little to no cases of COVID-19 could be the first to open in just a matter of weeks.

In a news conference, the governor those areas must be able to adequately test, contact trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 in their communities before reopening.

“Assuming these counties have these processes in place, that would enable us to safely and slowly begin the reopening process on May 15th for some counties only,” Brown said.

Brown also announced plans Friday to better track the novel coronavirus.

The state is currently conducting between 1,000 and 1,500 tests a day, a number health officials say will need to increase to more than 2,000 in the coming weeks. 

“Testing and tracing serve two purposes: First to diagnose those who are sick, and second to see where the virus may be hiding,” Brown said.

In order to better track the virus, the governor announced the ‘Be The Key’ program, which will invite 100,000 volunteers to voluntarily be tested for COVID-19.

“We’ll send an email or letter out on May 11th to invite people to participate,” said Dr. David Bangsberg, Dean of OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. “Once they voluntarily accept participation we will enroll them and follow them for one year.”

 “This program is a game-changer,” said Brown. “It will give us a more accurate understanding of the true rate of infection in Oregon and have ongoing precision monitoring of any new outbreaks.”

Under the governor’s requirements, every county must be prepared to contact trace 95 percent of all new COVID cases in 24 hours to begin the process of reopening.

Deschutes County has 12 staff members trained for contact tracing, which is enough, according to Communicable Disease Supervisor Jill Johnson.

As things kind of normalize a little bit and some of our staff that are cross-trained to do this work go back to their normal duties we are working with OHA to bring additional staff on to help us with COVID-related work,” Johnson said.

The county has monitored more than 150 individuals who may have come into contact with someone who tested positive.

“We are well prepared to respond to more cases but I think that as much as we can prevent them we want to do so,” Johnson said.

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