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Deschutes County: Recent COVID-19 case rise tied to local gatherings, not visitors

Redmond area sees case rise; county's new case count dropped late in week

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County public health officials are asking Central Oregonians to stay close to home this weekend, to curb the spread of COVID-19, while noting a recent rise in cases was largely tied to local multi-household gatherings -- not visitors -- and pre-date the Phase 1 reopening a week ago.

The Oregon Health Authority issued its first weekly Public Health Indicators dashboard on Wednesday -- coincidentally, the day Deschutes County reported its highest daily count, of nine new cases. There had been seven the previous day.

Deschutes County was the only county with three red X's -- an uptrend in positive tests in the past week, along with an increase in new cases of more than 5% and more than 30% of new cases not traced to a known source.

However, the county got green checks in two other areas -- keeping the percentage of Emergency Department visits for COVID-like illness below 1.5% -- in fact, it's been 0.5% statewide -- and 100% of case follow-ups initiated within 24 hours during the week.

Since then, Deschutes County reported only one new case on Thursday and actually saw no new cases and a reduction of one case on Friday, after OHA determined an earlier reported case did not meet the COVID-19 definition.

Morgan Emerson, preparedness coordinator with Deschutes County Health Services, told NewsChannel 21, "We do know our increase in cases is significantly tied to people having multi-household gatherings -- family or social gatherings -- in 18 of 25 of the new cases."

"So what we are seeing is an increase in cases associated with family and social gatherings -- so things like barbecues, celebrations, getting together with extended family members, and seeing a risk there with more COVID-19 cases," Morgan said. "So most of our cases have been associated with an event like that."

"The increase in cases we saw this week are largely associated with multiple households getting together, and prior to entering Phase 1 reopening," she said. "The majority of our cases in the past week have been associated with a known contact with someone who is COVID-19-positive."

Emerson also noted that OHA ZIP code data, also released by the state on a weekly basis, "shows a rise of cases in Redmond residents."

"Some of this rise is due to multi-household gatherings," she said. "We have seen similar trends of cases associated with attending family and social gatherings in other areas of Deschutes County as well."

Emerson said the county will need the public's help in meeting criteria for the next phase of reopening. That includes understanding the risk associated with Memorial Day weekend and trying not to attend multi-family gatherings in an attempt to avoid spreading the virus.

"Even if your're healthy, going to a large Memorial Day barbecue, a large event, many extended households getting together -- this isn't the year," she said.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.

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