QUICK READ: County challenged to track sources of infection, care centers report more cases

Katrina Rothenberger, incident commander, sits for an interview in the COVID-19 incident command at the Marion County Health and Human Services office on Monday, July 13. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Marion County’s coronavirus watch list review shows the challenge of figuring out where the virus is spreading

Marion County epidemiologists have linked about 30 cases of coronavirus in the past two weeks to social gatherings like potlucks and bachelorette parties after placement on a state watchlist prompted a more thorough review of data.

It’s a small proportion of the 521 residents diagnosed with the virus during that timeframe, but Katrina Rothenberger, Marion County’s public health division director, said events like birthday parties, funerals and family potlucks account for a growing number of cases in the county.

“Those are some of the things we’re starting to see more of,” she said.

The review illustrates how establishing contacts between people diagnosed with the virus is challenging, even when health workers can promptly call people who test positive. Marion County has consistently scored well on weekly state reports for contacting 95% or more of people with a positive Covid test within 24 hours.

But getting someone on the phone for an interview doesn’t mean an epidemiologist can link them to another case – and that’s increasingly true since county businesses have reopened and more people are out in public.


Are Salem businesses enforcing state mask mandate? State records suggest many aren’t

Over the last month, those complaints lodged with the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration have largely concerned customers and employees not wearing masks in grocery stores, retailers, salons and other public places.

Dan Clay, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the union representing retail and food service workers, said employees tasked with enforcing the mandate are facing volatile customers unwilling to put a mask on.

He said his members are already at greater risk of being exposed to the virus, which he said is made worse by mask-less customers.

“It’s a worker safety issue,” he said. “Lives hang in the balance.”

Since Gov. Kate Brown enacted a face-covering requirement for Marion and Polk counties on June 24, there have been over 200 complaints filed with the agency concerning Salem restaurants, construction companies, grocery stores, salons and other employers. About 80% of the complaints concern employers not enforcing the requirement.

The requirement, which was expanded statewide on July 1, exempts people with medical conditions that make it hard to breathe while wearing a mask.

Public health officials have touted the widespread use of masks as a key way to slow the spread of the virus and allow schools and the economy to reopen.


Long-term care facilities, agricultural workplaces continue to report new Covid outbreaks

Long-term care facilities are continuing to drive case counts in Marion County, with two facilities reporting new outbreaks in the last week, according to the latest state data.

Tierra Rose Care Center, a nursing home at 4254 Weathers St. N.E., reported three cases since an onset on July 28, according to an Oregon Health Authority report released Wednesday.

Each week the state releases information about significant outbreaks at long-term care facilities and workplaces throughout Oregon. Long-term care facilities are listed on the report if there are three or more cases or one or more deaths.

Cedar Village, an assisted living facility located at 4452 Lancaster Dr. N.E., has reported three cases since an initial case was reported on July 9.

A resident died two weeks ago at Bonaventure of Salem, located at 3441 Boone Rd. S.E., but the facility said the resident tested negative for the virus twice before returning to the facility on hospice care.

Jeremiah Gray, divisional director of operations at Bonaventure, said the resident initially tested positive on July 14, but six days later tested negative on July 20 and again July 21.


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