Nineteen more people in John Day, Canyon City, Mt. Vernon and Seneca tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 85, according to a Tuesday press release from the Grant County Health Department.
The new cases come after Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a statewide “Two-Week Freeze” starting today to slow rising COVID-19 infection rates.
In Oregon, state health officials reported 935 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and 13 new deaths Tuesday.
The state’s surge in cases mirrors the trend across the country, as positive cases topped 11 million and the number of deaths hit 247,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hospitals run the risk of being stretched beyond capacity if infection rates do not decrease.
In Grant County’s region seven, shared with Deschutes, Harney, Klamath, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake and Wheeler counties, the Oregon Health Authority reports that 18 people are being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Region seven, as of Tuesday, has 16 staffed adult intensive care unit beds and 108 non-ICU beds are available, according to OHA’s website.
OHA notes the data does not reflect the maximum capacity of the hospitals. Beds, equipment and other resources can be repurposed if additional patients need to be hospitalized.
Blue Mountain Hospital’s Director of Emergency Medical Services Rebekah Rand said the hospital is continuing to allow for elective surgeries. She said the procedures in John Day are typically routine and do not require an extended inpatient stay.
She said the hospital requires that patients have a negative COVID-19 test before the procedure. She said the hospital is closely watching its testing capacity, personal protective equipment and staffing levels. Earlier in the pandemic, she said, the governor halted the surgeries to preserve PPE.
“At this time, our PPE level on hand remains at a level we are comfortable with,” she said. “And our supply chains remain open in that we are still able to place orders and receive them in a timely manner.”
Blue Mountain Hospital District’s Home Health, Hospice,and Outpatient Clinic has eliminated most in-person visits and will see patients through telehealth or phone call support until Nov. 30, at which time they will evaluate the COVID-19 infection rate, according to a Nov. 30 press release.
Grant County Health Administrator Kimberly Lindsay said the county is experiencing community spread, where people contract the virus without any known contact with a sick person.
“I don’t know that we’re ever going to get down to having zero to one cases a week anytime soon,” Lindsay said. “But what we want to see is a decrease from week to week.
“You have exposures, you have incubation time, you have symptom development time and viral load time. (The increase in cases) is not surprising, and I’m hopeful that our case count this week will be lower than last week.”
She said that she is asking people to continue to be safe and thoughtful about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
Lindsay said the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Planning Tool, a tool designed by researchers at Georgia Tech University, helps people easily understand the risks associated with different size gatherings.
For example, in Grant County, as of Nov. 16, some would have a 48% chance that they would encounter at least one person infected with the coronavirus at a Thanksgiving dinner with 25 guests. In Harney County, it’s 27%.
The tool considers the number of infections per capita in a county and the size of the event. The information plotted over a county-level map makes it easier to understand, Lindsay said.
The map is updated daily with real-time information on new cases from every county across the country: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu.
A couple of caveats to consider, Lindsay said, is the map assumes that the actual number of coronavirus cases is up to 10 times higher because of a shortage of testing.
While Grant County has experienced community spread, Lindsay said the highest concentration of cases has been in John Day.
Lindsay said she did not share the tool to scare people. She said the information would help people make informed decisions.
“COVID is out there in the numbers,” she said. “This is something we should all be paying attention to.”