By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The state will double its COVID testing capabilities in the coming weeks, hoping to identify more cases and ultimately slow the spread of a virus that’s killed 581 Oregonians.
During a news conference announcing the testing expansion, Gov. Kate Brown said Oregonians need to stay the course with masks and social distancing to get COVID under control here.
“We absolutely cannot test our way out of this pandemic,” she said. “The increase in testing capacity is certainly not a hall pass to flaunt safety protocol.”
The tests are part of 100 million rapid tests the Department of Health and Human Services is distributing nationwide.
Oregon is expected to receive 60,000 to 80,000 rapid COVID tests each week through the end of the year, beginning next week.
Oregon Health Authority Dr. Melissa Sutton said the state received an influx of 15,000 tests this week and started distributing them to areas ravaged by wildfires last month.
An additional shipment of 82,000 tests is expected to be deployed next week, according to HHS.
“With this increased testing capacity we hope to be able to diagnose more people quickly so they can get the care they need,” Brown said. “We want to identify more cases of COVID so we can isolate and quarantine people and help contain the virus.”
The Abbott BinaxNOW antigen tests can diagnose cases of COVID-19 in 15 minutes.
With the added tests, officials said anyone with symptoms should be tested along with anyone who has been in close contact with someone with COVID.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said COVID cases in Oregon have increased 25% since the last week in August and “the rising case numbers should catch everyone’s attention.”
The primary culprit, he said, is social gatherings of various types.
“What I really want people to do as they move indoors is not do it in large groups in unventilated spaces without masks,” he said. “And I’m as worried about people’s homes as anything. These social gatherings that we’re seeing (cases come from) are not typically in commercial spaces. They’re in people’s homes.”