OHA Report: ‘substantial’ proportion of Oregonians have undiagnosed COVID infection

As of mid-June, 1% of Oregonians without COVID-19 had evidence of past infection of the virus in their blood, which is 10 times higher than the reported rate of infections obtained through conventional testing, according to a new study.

Oregon Health Authority epidemiologists who authored the study, which appears Friday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), found that nine of 897 blood specimens collected from 19 health care facilities around Oregon between May 11 and June 15, contained antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The study also suggested that rates of infection increased with age, with no antibodies detected in the blood of pediatric patients 17 and younger.

The rate was 0.4-0.5% in those ages 18-64; and 1.6-2.1% in those 65 and older.

The results indicate a “substantial” proportion of Oregon residents have an undiagnosed and unreported infection from COVID-19.

“We suspected that a much larger segment of Oregon’s population has been exposed to and infected with COVID-19 than traditional diagnostic testing shows,” said Paul Cieslak, M.D., a study co-author and OHA medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations. “But these results also tell us that the great majority of Oregonians remain susceptible to this virus.”

The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was diagnosed Feb. 28.

Through May 31, 4,243 people in Oregon, or about one of every 1,000 people, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Because this rate doesn’t account for people who were infected but did not seek testing — such as those with mild or no symptoms, or people unable to access testing — the rate is believed to be lower than the state’s actual infection count.

Seroprevalence surveys like this one — testing blood samples to look for antibodies — may estimate the rate of infection more accurately than conventional testing by identifying all people who have had previous infections with COVID-19, including those who didn’t show symptoms or did not seek care.

“Because most of us are still susceptible,” said Cieslak, “we need to keep practicing physical distancing and masking until we have effective vaccines, treatments or other means of mitigating illness.”

The antibody test shows that people whose blood was tested for antibodies were exposed to COVID-19 at some point, even if they never had symptoms.

But Cieslak emphasized it’s not a good test to get if you think you have COVID-19, because antibodies don’t appear in your blood until two to three weeks after exposure to the virus.

Plus, he explained, “we don’t know if antibodies to COVID-19 mean you are protected, so you still need to wear a face covering, maintain physical distancing, and keep washing your hands.”

For more information on antibody testing, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html.

State police exit Portland after 2 weeks of protest duty

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State Police are leaving Portland after a two-week assignment to help protect a federal courthouse that’s been a target of protesters during months of conflict in Oregon’s largest city.

KOIN-TV reports state police said their commitment had ended and troopers were returning to their assigned communities.

Authorities say officers and demonstrators clashed into the early morning hours Thursday as some people threw objects and set off fireworks before police used tear gas to break up the crowd near the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.

Two protesters were arrested and one officer suffered a hand wound described as serious.

Portland State disarms campus police after Black man’s death

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland State University said Thursday it will disarm its campus police force, more than two years after officers from the department shot and killed a Black man who was trying to break up a fight close to campus.

The announcement came as Oregon’s largest city approaches 80 days of nightly protests following the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died after being pinned by the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer

Portland State President Stephen Percy said the decision to have officers patrol the campus unarmed is the first step in a broader policy to re-imagine safety at the state-funded university in the heart of the city.

The university has more than 26,000 students, although many commute to class.

California to end eviction protections as lawmakers mull fix

ACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will resume eviction and foreclosure proceedings on Sept. 2, stoking fears of a wave of evictions during the coronavirus pandemic unless the governor and state Legislature can agree on a proposal to extend protections into 2021.

The Judicial Council of California voted 19-1 on Thursday to end the temporary rules that had been in place since April 6.

Since the pandemic began in March, more than 10 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in California.

A survey from the U.S. Census shows more than 1.7 million renters in the state could not pay their rent on time last month.

Human-caused Columbia River Gorge fire prompts evacuations

MOSIER, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire burning in the scenic Columbia River Gorge has grown to more than 800 acres and is threatening hundreds of homes.

The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in the community of Mosier, Oregon, which is between Hood River and The Dalles along Interstate 84. It had burned 791 acres (320 hectares) as of Thursday morning. About 900 homes were threatened with people in about 150 of those homes told to leave their homes immediately, KGW-TV reported.

The blaze, named the Mosier Creek fire, was human-caused, according to The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act, making more state resources available to fire crews. The state fire marshal’s office assumed command Thursday.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations along several roads in Mosier. A hotel in The Dalles is available as a shelter.

Residents told to evacuate as wildfire in Gorge area grows

MOSIER, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire that started between Hood River and The Dalles in Oregon has grown quickly prompting officials to order evacuations.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the Oregon Department of Forestry tweeted about the fire near Mosier Wednesday afternoon.

At about 7 p.m. department spokesperson Christie Shaw estimated the blaze at about 50 acres (20 hectares) but at about 8:15 it had grown to 200 acres (81 hectares).

The department estimates about 200 structures are threatened by the fire. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office has issued evacuation orders for people who live on several roads in the Mosier area.

Other nearby residents were told to be ready to evacuate if necessary.

Sockeye salmon return to central Idaho, numbers still low

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) — Wildlife experts have reported more than a dozen sockeye salmon returned to Redfish Lake in central Idaho after reporting a record-low number of salmon last year.

The Idaho Press reported that state Department of Fish and Game fishery experts Dan Baker and John Powell said that sockeye salmon survival is not totally in jeopardy after 16 sockeye salmon returned to the lake as of Monday.

Last year, a record-low 17 sockeye salmon returned to Idaho, but experts expect better return rates than last year. Idaho Conservation League spokesman Scott Ki said that the higher numbers of returning sockeye this year is encouraging, but the fish still face considerable obstacles.

Multnomah Falls reopens to the public with coronavirus rules

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s tallest waterfall and one of the state’s most popular attractions has reopened to the public with new guidelines in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Multnomah Falls opened in the Columbia River Gorge Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service announced. New social distancing and face mask mandates were also announced, in addition to other strategies to keep crowds down and visitors separated from one another, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

There will be two phases to the reopening, the forest service said. The first, effective now, is first-come, first-served, and allows up to 300 visitors at a time between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to check in and wait in a socially distanced queue from the parking lot to the viewing platform at the bottom of the waterfall.

The second phase, which is expected to be implemented in the next few weeks, will involve an online ticketing system allowing 300 people to visit the waterfall each hour, and will require reservations at least one day in advance.

Face coverings will be mandatory for all visitors, the forest service said, and signs will ask people to maintain distance from those not in their household.

The Benson Bridge viewpoint at Multnomah Falls will remain closed, along with the hiking trail to the top of Multnomah Falls.

In Seattle, a Black police chief resigns over budget cuts

SEATTLE (AP) — Efforts to cut spending on police _ a key demand of anti-racism demonstrators across the nation _ have claimed an unlikely target.

Carmen Best, Seattle’s first Black police chief and one who enjoyed deep support in its minority communities, announced Monday night she is resigning in protest.

It came just hours after the City Council voted to cut her pay and that of her command staff, and to trim as many as 100 officers from a force of 1,400 through layoffs and attrition.

She said she was OK with the pay cut, but not with having to lay off young officers, many of them minorities hired to improve diversity.

Multnomah County DA won’t act on low-level Portland protest arrests

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The newly elected district attorney in Portland has announced a new policy that means that cases will be dismissed against dozens — and possibly several hundred — people arrested on lesser charges at the ongoing protests.

District Attorney Mike Schmidt said Tuesday the new policy recognizes the frustration over centuries of racial inequity being expressed by protesters and also recognizes the court’s need to conserve resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schmidt says there have been about 550 protest-related arrests since May 29 and only 133 of those are felonies.

Most misdemeanor arrests will be dismissed.