The Oregon Health Authority has notified Baker County today that the county is being added to the state watch list for COVID-19 cases. The Oregon Health Authority based the decision on “sporadic case rate”, referring to the increase of 12 new cases between June 30-July 14. No additional cases were reported today, with the County total remaining at 13.
Baker County Health Department Director Nancy Staten says, “While being added to the watch list is not a surprise based on the increase in cases over the last few weeks, it’s important that the community know that the Health Department has been able to contact each of the individuals who are positive cases and their close contacts, and isolation and quarantine have been implemented to try to prevent further spread. We’re in frequent communication with the individuals who tested positive. Each of the positive cases has been traced back to another positive case, and while not all of the positive cases are related to one another, the cases are happening in small clusters. The best thing the community can do to prevent further cases and additional restrictions is follow the basic COVID-19 guidelines: stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash, wear face coverings and maintain 6 feet of distance between you and others who aren’t members of your household. It’s up to all of us to take care of our community and protect the progress we’ve made to be in Phase 2.”
Being placed on the watch list does not change any of the current restrictions on businesses or gatherings, but it does prioritize the county for state support for things like testing, case investigation/contact tracing help, and Personal Protective Equipment.
The Oregon Health Authority’s website explains that “sporadic” transmission is cases that do not have a clear epidemiological link to other outbreaks or clusters of infections. In Baker County’s case, the Health Department has identified clusters of infections. Counties remain on the watch list for a minimum of three weeks, until their sporadic case count drops below a rate of 50 cases per 100,000 in population, or is less than 5 cases in the previous two weeks. Other counties on the watch list include Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wasco.
Commissioner Mark Bennett says, “While the County being moved to the watch list is not a positive step, the hard work and quick response from the Baker County Health Department team allowed people who were exposed to be notified quickly so they can quarantine to curb further spread. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a reduction in the number of new cases. Everyone needs to remain vigilant as we see the number of cases in our county and surrounding counties pick up.”