With 39 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, Douglas County appears to be headed toward the “extreme risk” category.
The state determines the risk levels for each county every two weeks. Douglas County has been in the lower “high risk” level since Jan. 1.
Douglas County spokesperson Tamara Howell said the state’s two-week risk level count period runs 14 days from Feb. 7 at 12:01 am through this Saturday at midnight, and the number of new cases over that time period is already at 251 with four days to go.
According to the metrics currently used by the state, counties must remain below 200 cases per 100,000 people over designated two-week periods. For Douglas County, that means not rising above 224 cases.
The state will announce on Tuesday which counties will be moved into new risk categories. If the county does move to extreme risk, that would happen Feb. 26 and runs for 14 days.
Bars and restaurants would once again be closed to indoor dining, and gyms larger than 500 square feet would be limited to six clients at a time and smaller gyms to one client at a time.
Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who heads up the county’s COVID-19 response, said the impact of moving to “extreme risk” will be felt by businesses like restaurants and gyms rather than churches, schools and long-term care facilities.
“Those places where we’re seeing the cases are not impacted by the closures. There’s some irony in that,” Freeman said.
Freeman said that illustrates the problem of a one-size-fits-all state metric.
“We’ve said all along allowing local decision making and local choices we could tailor whatever precautions that needed to be made specific to our community. It would have more effect on lowering the case count, but we’re not allowed to do that,” Freeman said.
He said it’s hard seeing the numbers rise over the past week and a half.
“We as a community, as a county have done extremely well for a year. We’ve had some of the lowest case counts in the nation for the better part of a year here in Douglas County,” Freeman said.
He attributed those low case counts to people making small, meaningful choices every day.
“Certainly something has changed over the last week or so,” he said.
He doesn’t know what changed, but people are tired of the pandemic and some people, including some elected officials and health care providers, are making comments that contradict COVID-19 precautions.
“There’s a ton of information out there that people are trying to pick through to decide what’s best for them,” he said.
He said the county has always believed giving people the most accurate, current information with the best recommendations and asking them to do the right thing is the right strategy.
“We’re going to continue to do that,” he said.
The county reported no new deaths Tuesday.
Fourteen county residents are hospitalized with the illness, nine locally and five out of the area.
The Douglas Public Health Network is currently supporting 239 people with the illness who are in isolation and another 558 people who have been in contact with an infected person and are in quarantine. That’s a total of 797 people.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 411 new cases and one new death Tuesday.