social distancing graphic

This graphic, based on data from Signer Laboratory at the University of California-San Diego, shows how practicing social distancing can dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The news this week about COVID-19 in Oregon is really a tale of two outcomes.

First the good news. State health officials say the measures taken by Gov. Kate Brown — the stay-at-home order, social distancing, closing nonessential businesses and others — appear to be working.

Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer and an epidemiologist with the Oregon Health Authority, said the most recent modeling shows that while we should expect an increase in cases, the state won’t see a dramatic spike as long as these orders are heeded.

The modeling done by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, using information from Oregon cases, shows the difficult but necessary social distancing orders in Oregon have cut transmission of infections by 50% to 70%.

“We know coronavirus has brought painful disruption and distress for Oregonians. However, these numbers tell us that what we’re doing can work,” Sidelinger said at a video conference this week. “We know social distancing is tough and comes with incredible sacrifices. But steps we’re all taking to maintain social distancing could save the lives of people we know and people who are important to us. As Oregonians, we all must continue to put Stay Home, Save Lives into practice.”

If we don’t, Sidelinger and others warn, we could see a much more draconian outcome. Consider the following:

  • Under current social distancing conditions, it is estimated that in early May, Oregon would have over 4,000 cumulative infections and 200-1,200 active infections at any given time, researchers say. However, if the state were to reopen nonessential businesses (while keeping schools closed), the number of new infections would spike to as many as 3,500 active infections by early May.
  • An institute creating projections used by the White House coronavirus task force is estimating Oregon could see more than 500 COVID-19 deaths before the end of the outbreak. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is part of the University of Washington, said the estimates for Oregon show the state hitting the peak of its curve for deaths per day on May 2. At that time, IHME estimates 11 people from Oregon will die from COVID-19 each day.
  • Researchers say the projections remain uncertain, in large part because so few Oregonians have been tested. In the next few weeks, health officials and researchers will have better data on actual infections and how they affect the projections, as well as more data on the public’s continued adherence to social distancing measures.

Consider, also, the recent news that a Portland nursing home had 29 residents and staff test positive for COVID-19, and that 29 senior living facilities in the state had at least one confirmed case of the virus.

The lesson of all this? We cannot relax for a minute when it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19 through individual isolation and social distancing. If anything, we need to redouble our efforts in those areas now more than ever.

Or as Sidelinger put it: “What I’m hearing is that now is not the time to take the foot off the brake. We can’t go back to business-as-usual like we had in February.”

So please, as a reminder:

  • Stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
  • Cloud not crowd — stay connected with family, friends and work colleagues through phone, email and social media.
  • Stop shaking hands, hugging or kissing as a greeting.
  • Encourage flexible work/learning arrangements and encourage staff to stay home if possible.
  • Maintain a high standard of regular cleaning.
  • Wash your hands frequently.

Stay vigilant, and stay well.

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(9) comments


Watching another guided fishing boat with 3 people in a drift boat floating down the river in violation of the Governors stay-home order. Considering how the county boat ramps were reopened by our County Commissioners after originally being closed, I can see why the guides think its OK to ignore the stay-home order.


Now watching the third guided fishing boat this morning floating down the river, each with three people in one drift boat. No wonder Douglas county received a "F" for social distancing.



An interesting read on the many similarities to how Oregon’s leaders and its residents addressed the 1918 influenza epidemic compared to today’s coronavirus. The article concludes public apathy then and now is the biggest thing we have to fight. And yet, since individual action is the greatest weapon against this virus, we also have more power than we know.

more projection info is a:

Thank you to all Douglas County medical personnel, first responders, DCPHN members and volunteers. We hope you all stay safe and we support you. Everyone is concerned about Covid-19, it is especially difficult for those of us who have family and friends working in the front lines. We can all help by staying home.


Couldn't agree more with your expressions of appreciation to the many people helping with this pandemic.

According to the projections you linked, Oregon coronavirus cases are not supposed to peak until May 5. That's a month away from now. Everyone will need to pace themselves and plan accordingly knowing this situation may (I repeat, may) last for several months.


The University of Washing has today updated the model being used by the OHA and now estimates the coronavirus peak in Oregon will occur on April 15, not May 5.


Oregon’s Jackson County has tested more people per capita for coronavirus than every state except New York, Washington and Louisiana. The county, which ranks sixth in population in Oregon, about 217,500 people (over twice as many as Douglas County), is testing at more than twice the rate of the state overall. Jackson County public health officials suggested it was their preparation, the county’s relatively small size and possibly the quick response. As of Friday, the southern Oregon county has tested 2,028 people for coronavirus compared to a mere 334 people in Douglas County.

That’s critical because the true number of infections in Douglas County and elsewhere has been dramatically undercounted as many people have struggled to qualify for testing unless they have severe symptoms. That lack of testing also means people who are infected but don’t have symptoms, or who have only mild symptoms, can unknowingly spread the virus to others.


Well, no. It's even worse than it looks, and way more complicated. The graph appears to actually represent how many *new* infections there are at each stage, not the total number of current infections, allowing for resolved/dead cases. For example, at the top of the graph, there are 2.5 *new* infections, but the index case is likely still alive and unresolved, so there are 3.5 cases, not 2.5. At day 30, there would likely be about 700 cases, not about 400. Social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing are even more effective than almost any of us knows. The effects are far more dramatic than even this graphic shows.

You are absolutely correct, the projection reports we viewed show the 700 range. Everyone needs to stay home, wash their hands frequently, and wear masks in public to help reduce the spread. Tele-health online visits will become a huge part of future medical care.

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