By Associated Press • 

Oregon reports decline in weekly COVID-19 cases for first time since May

By SARA CLINE Associated Press/Report for America

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials reported on Thursday the state's first decline in weekly coronavirus cases since early May.

During the week of July 20 through July 26, the number of cases in the state decreased by 7% from the previous week, the Oregon Health Authority said.

The rate of deaths, where people who died tested positive for the deadly disease, also declined from 6.6% to 5.1% — one of the lowest rates in the country, said the Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen.

“While our situation is better than many states, due to affirmative steps taken, COVID-19 is still actively spreading in our communities and we need to continue taking the recommended steps to contain its spread,” Allen said.

The health authority reported 416 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases Thursday.

Additionally five more people died due to the disease, increasing Oregon’s death toll to 316. The state’s total case count since the start of the pandemic has surpassed 18,100.

In Yamhill County, there are 318 cases and 10 deaths as of Thursda.

Last week health officials said even at the state's current transmission rate, based on recent projections the daily amount of infections is predicted to rise to 1,600 in the next month and 27 hospitalizations a day.

If transmission were to decrease by about 10% from the current rate, the estimated number of infections a day would decrease over time to 600 infections a day and 17 hospitalizations.

The county with the highest number of new cases Thursday — 101 cases — was Umatilla County, in rural northeastern Oregon. Officials attributed Umatilla’s high case count to a delay in processing electronic laboratory reports.

Umatilla County has the state's most cases per capita and a testing positivity rate of about 17%. It is one of 10 counties on Oregon's “watch list.”

The watch list was created as a way to help the state prioritize resources and assistance to areas that are seeing the broadest spread of COVID-19.

When a county is placed on the list, the Oregon Health Authority increases monitoring and communication, and deploys additional technical assistance and resources, such as epidemiological support, case investigation and contact tracing help, officials said.

Three counties were added to the watch list Thursday — Hood River, Marion and Multnomah, Oregon's most populous county and home to Portland.

In addition two counties were removed from the list — Lincoln and Union — after successfully reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“This is also a good reminder to all Oregonians—especially to those who live in Watch List counties—of the importance of remaining vigilant,“ Gov. Kate Brown said. ”I urge all Oregonians to keep practicing physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and practicing good hygiene. Your choices matter, and we are truly all in this together.”