Lane County placed on Oregon’s COVID-19 watch list for first time

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Lane County’s surge in coronavirus cases is connected, at least in part, to social gatherings of students.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced that Lane County has been added to Oregon’s COVID-19 county watch list for the first time.

There are now five counties on the state’s watch list: Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla.

Lane County was placed on the list because of an increase in cases in the county over the past two weeks. Brown said that the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is working with Lane County Public Health to address the county’s increase in community spread.

Brown said that the surge in Lane County is connected, at least in part, to social gatherings of students.

“Social gatherings, like off-campus parties, are incredibly dangerous and spread this disease,” Brown said. “Let me be clear, though: it will take the entire county working together to bring these COVID-19 numbers under control. Once COVID-19 is spreading in the community, small family get-togethers can also lead to dozens of infections.”

At least 357 students at the University of Oregon have tested positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 21. The school is keeping a running count and reporting it on its website.

INTERACTIVE: Oregon coronavirus map 

The watch list allows the state to prioritize resources, including contact tracing help, in the counties where the virus is spreading more rapidly and health officials cannot trace cases to a known source. These untraced cases, known as sporadic cases, are a marker of coronavirus spreading in a community.

According to the governor’s office, counties have rapid community spread when there is a sporadic case rate of 50 or more per 100,000 people in the past two weeks and there have been more than five sporadic cases in the same time frame. Once a county is on the watch list, it must remain on the list for at least three weeks, until sporadic case rates drop below the marker.

“The Watch List signifies caution,” Brown said. “When we are able to address community spread early on, the more likely we are to be successful in curbing that spread.”

Brown said that OHA will offer support and resources to county officials, but people in the community must do their part.

“I urge all Oregonians to continue wearing face coverings, watch your physical distance, wash your hands often, and stay home if you feel sick,” Brown said. “Now is also a good time to schedule your flu shot.”