Central Oregon COVID cases declining at a ‘glacial pace’ compared to state


COVID cases are declining in Central Oregon, but at a “glacial pace” compared to the rest of the state, health officials said Wednesday.

During a weekly COVID update to county commissioners, Michael Johnson, the data scientist for St. Charles Health System, called it a “painfully slow recovery” from the delta surge due to a variety of factors.

“With the exception of Deschutes county, nearly every county east of the Cascades has several things in common,” Johnson said. “First, and perhaps the biggest factor is the vaccination rates are lower than the state overall.  Deschutes county is the exception here.”

He said another factor is the region’s larger proportion of people over 65.

Additionally, Central Oregon’s ‘Social Vulnerability Index’ is fairly high.

He said the SVI refers to the “potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health that stem from socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status or language, housing type and transportation.”

“These combined factors, all of which have been shown to amplify the effect of the delta variant and put us in a somewhat unique place compared to the rest of the state,” Johnson said. “Couple this with the fact that the delta variant is so incredibly transmissible and you begin to understand why our region is slower to recover from the most recent surge.  It doesn’t completely explain it, but I think it certainly provides some insight.”

Deschutes County reported 660 COVID cases last week, down from 755 the week before and 689 the week before that.

Last week’s tally was the fewest since mid-August.

Currently, there are 6,749 COVID cases in Deschutes County – that’s 1 in 29 residents.

And while cases are starting to trickle down, Johnson pointed out COVID deaths are actually going up in Central Oregon.

Between Aug. 1 2020 and July 31 2021, the hospital averaged .33 deaths per day – about one patient death every three days, he said.

But in the last 86 days – since the delta variant took hold – the hospital has averaged more than 1.5 deaths per day, a 4½ fold increase.

Overall, 26 of the region’s 182 COVID deaths have been reported in October; that’s 14%.

Johnson said, as predicted, the number of pediatric COVID cases has increased since the beginning of the school year.

“We may be a little better off overall with ED visits for COVID, but not in the area of those 18 and under,” he said. “That’s going to increase in the month of October.”

You can see the full COVID update presented to the county commissioners below.

COVID-19 update 10.27.21






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