By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Perceived tracing issues are holding up Deschutes County’s plan to move into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, according to health officials.
Deschutes and Jefferson counties were not on Gov. Kate Brown’s initial list of counties approved Thursday to relax some of the stay-home order restrictions handed down in March.
According to a statement from Brown, “Deschutes, Jefferson, and Umatilla, applied for Phase 2 but remain under further review. State health officials are in active communication with local public health officials in these counties.”
Morgan Emerson, program and communications coordinator for Deschutes County Health, tells Central Oregon Daily News the county was denied because there was a high percentage of new cases that couldn’t be traced.
“We aren’t meeting the metric of the percent of cases traced to a known source, which could be an indicator of increased community spread,” she said. “However, we did a deeper dive into that data and we found that some of those cases have travel associated, which means they might not be acquired in Deschutes County. So, we shared that information with the state and we expect to hear back soon.”
Emerson added the county has historically been meeting that metric and had only nine cases that week.
“So, even one or two cases in a different category could significantly increase the percentage,” she said. ” It’s important to remember we’re just looking at 9 cases.”
Deschutes County on Thursday reported five new COVID cases to bring its total to 133. Of those, 111 patients have recovered.
Brown approved 26 counties, including Crook County, to move to Phase 2 of reopening on June 5, 6, and 8.
“Today, most of us live in communities where people are venturing out a bit. We do so cautiously, looking out for friends, family and neighbors,” Brown said in a statement. “I want to say thank you to each and every Oregonian who has made tremendous sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our communities.”
Deschutes County health officials were confident in their application, telling county commissioners earlier this week it met the state’s seven guidelines for advancement, including training more contact tracers.
“We’re meeting this at 100%,” Emerson said at the time. “And we have 12 DCHS staff members that are trained to be able to do contact tracing as well as the three additional hires.”
According to the state:
“The Oregon Health Authority analyzed the metrics holistically for each county and determined when seemingly significant percentage increases were actually the result of a county having a very small number of cases.
“For example, several counties did not technically meet the metric that at least 70% of new cases must be tracked to an existing, known case.
“However, in all of these counties, the number of untracked cases was so small (fewer than 5) that OHA deemed them not significant. In addition, one county––Lane––technically did not meet the metric of having no increase in testing positivity in the last 7 days.
“The previous seven days had a positivity rating of 0%, and the last 7 days had a positivity of 2%, which is still low compared to the national average, which is over 10%. OHA deemed this change insignificant as well.”
Jefferson County’s case count jumped one Thursday to 46 – but most of the cases have been tied to the Warm Springs reservation and isolated to family gatherings, according to health officials there.
The reservation on Thursday announced plans to open its casino next week.
Crook County has reported 7 cases of COVID-19. It will be allowed to enter Phase 2 on Saturday.
The following counties have been approved to enter Phase 2 on the following dates:
This is a developing story.