▶️ Deschutes County reports first COVID-19 case

The Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday announced the first Deschutes County presumptive positive case of COVID-19.

Oregon now has a total of 21 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Feb. 28 after the Oregon Health Authority announced four new presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday afternoon and two more later in the evening.

Deschutes County Heath Services officials were joined by St. Charles Health System leaders and Bend-La Pine Schools officials at a press conference to make the announcement locally.

“We’ve been preparing, we are prepared, this is what we do,” said St. Charles Executive Vice President Dr. Jeff Absalon.

Deschutes County Health Services Director Dr. George Conway said they learned about the positive test around 11 a.m.

He said the person was ill, providers determined the person was sick enough to be tested and they knew that was happening yesterday but learned of the positive test about two hours before the 1 p.m. press conference.

Absalon said the Deschutes County patient was being treated in an isolation unit at one of St. Charles’ facilities, but declined specifics.

Public health nurses are working on contact tracing to identify and notify individuals who were exposed to the individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

OHA confirmed one new case each in Polk, Marion, Umatilla and Deschutes counties and two new cases in Linn County. None of the new cases involved travel to a country where the virus is actively spreading. The Polk, Marion and Deschutes cases had no known close contacts with confirmed cases, so they are considered community-spread. The Umatilla County case is a close contact with that county’s first case.

OHA and Polk, Marion, Umatilla and Deschutes counties are working to identify and isolate any individuals who may have been in close contacts with the cases in the last 14 days.

“I know it’s difficult to learn that we are seeing more active community spread of COVID-19, but this is something we’ve been expecting,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed, health officer and state epidemiologist, OHA Public Health Division. “It’s a good reminder to take steps to protect yourself, and vulnerable friends and family members, by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re sick.”

The new cases means people have tested positive for the coronavirus in nine Oregon counties including Jackson, Klamath, Umatilla, Washington, Douglas, Marion and Multnomah.

Conway said there was a concern until recently about the limited number of tests available across the state. But the FDA has recently allowed for commercial testing kits to be made available, expanding the abilities for states to diagnose possible cases.

“I think very quickly – in the next few days – we should have adequate access to testing,” Conway said.

Health officials continue to urge all Oregonians to take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. Those considered “high risk” include adults 60 and older, or anyone with a serious health condition, including lung or heart problems, kidney disease, or diabetes, or anyone who has a suppressed immune system.

People vulnerable to complications should follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to stay home as much as possible and avoid gatherings.

Every resident should take these basic steps to protect those most at risk:

  • Never visit a hospital or long-term-care facility if you have a fever or cough illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.

The COVID-19 virus spreads like the flu, when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes close to another person (close means about 6 feet).

After someone contracts COVID-19, illness usually develops within 14 days. Symptoms mirror those of the flu, including fever, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat and general feelings of illness. That has made it more difficult for health officials to identify sick individuals and stop the virus from spreading.

As testing capacity increases — with Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics online, and clinical laboratories at some Oregon hospitals expected to begin testing by next week — officials expect the number of people who test positive with COVID-19 to rise.

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