PORTLAND — Gov. Kate Brown announced in a press release Thursday that Lincoln and Union counties have been removed from her watch list of counties experiencing an alarming spread of COVID-19.
The governor included Lincoln in a list of eight counties on the watch list July 3. Watch list counties receive increased monitoring by and resources from the Oregon Health Authority and may be subject to additional restrictions, including business closures, if cases do not decline.
“I want to applaud county officials and community members in Lincoln and Union counties for their diligent work in bringing the spread of COVID-19 under control in these areas. Your leadership shows that we can reduce the spread of this disease if we work together,” Brown said.
According to the press release, “counties are placed on the watch list when COVID-19 is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace that spread to specific source, creating a potentially dangerous dynamic. Specific markers of this rapid community spread include when there is a sporadic case rate of 50 or more per 100,000 people in the last two weeks and the county has had more than five sporadic cases in the last two weeks (sporadic cases are those that cannot be traced to a source; they indicate community spread). Counties remain on the watch list for a minimum of three weeks and until their sporadic case rates drop below these thresholds.”
The removal from the watch list also removes a barrier to applying for phase two of the governor’s reopening plan, although it does not mean automatic qualification. Counties must also meet six public health indicators in order to qualify for advancement, and the county does not meet two of the criteria — its positivity rate over the past seven days is higher than 5 percent (22 percent), according to the Oregon Health Authority’s website (tinyurl.com/yagdcjtt), and too many positive cases, 45 percent, could not be linked to a known source. That number should be 30 percent or less to qualify.
Lincoln County Public Health Director Rebecca Austen told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners during its most recent meeting that she would like to see the indicators met for several consecutive weeks before a phase two applications is made. Commissioners are set to discuss the issue during their meeting on Monday, Aug. 3.
Lincoln County is among only four counties still in phase one — the other three are in the Portland metro area.
Brown also announced that three counties had been added to the watch list — Hood River, Marion, and Multnomah — for a total of 10, including Baker, Jefferson, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla and Wasco.