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Oregon COVID-19 test positivity rate declines

Oregon’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests has seen another slight decrease, according to an Oregon Health Authority report.

The latest weekly numbers, released Saturday, show 1,173 of the 26,550 Oregonians tested for COVID-19 between Aug. 23-29 tested positive, a rate of 4.4%. On Aug. 22, the weekly report showed a positive test rate of 5%, while the two previous weeks saw a rate of 5.2%.

“It is encouraging that test positivity is declining, which suggests that the number of people newly infected with COVID-19 each week is decreasing,” the report said.

After falling to a low of 1.5% May 23, the positive rate rebounded, gradually climbing Aug. 1 to a peak 6.2%. The rate has dropped almost every week since then, the only technical exception being back-to-back weeks of 5.2% Aug. 8 and Aug. 15.

“A declining positive test rate shows that Oregonians’ efforts to use face coverings, physically distance and avoid gatherings is helping to slow the spread of COVID-19,” an OHA Facebook post said. “But Oregonians need to continue to take these measures, especially over the upcoming Labor Day holiday.”

The state’s cumulative positive rate, which accounts for weekly data recorded since Feb. 29, is at about 4.6%. Of the 555,918 Oregonians tested for the illness, 25,403 had tested positive as of Aug. 29.

Gov. Kate Brown continued Oregon’s state of emergency for 60 more days Tuesday due to the ongoing pandemic. State officials refer to the state of emergency as a “legal underpinning” for Brown to issue executive orders intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Brown pointed to the state’s improving numbers, but said Labor Day weekend is a “critical moment” in the fight against the illness.

“As students across Oregon begin a school year far different than any other before, it is clear that, at current COVID-19 levels, it will not be safe in much of the state for children to return to in-classroom instruction for months to come,” Brown said in a news release. “We can work together to stay safe and put Oregon on the path to return more students to classrooms. Or we could see Labor Day celebrations unknowingly sow the seeds of COVID-19 outbreaks that could set us back for months. Until there is an effective vaccine for COVID-19, this disease can spread like wildfire if we let our guard down.”

On Tuesday, OHA officials reported six more deaths and 243 more cases in Oregon, raising the state total to 26,946 cases, and 465 deaths.

Jackson County Public Health reported 10 more cases of the illness Tuesday, raising the local total to 821. Of that number, 168 people are considered infectious. Jackson County has seen 69 hospitalizations and two deaths from the illness.

The county is one of six on a state watch list due to a recent surge in sporadic COVID-19 cases, or those that cannot be traced to a known source. Monitored weekly, counties placed on the list remain there at least three weeks, and are taken off only if sporadic cases occur at a rate that is at or below 50 people per 100,000 for the county’s population, according to Tanya Phillips, Jackson County Public Health health promotion program manager.

Jackson County will remain on the watch list at least until Sept. 11.