New Oregon Health Authority benchmarks show where local counties are performing well and falling short in stopping the spread of COVID-19. (Screenshot from Oregon Health Authority dashboard)
Marion and Polk counties are failing to meet some state benchmarks used to track the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks, even as communities in both reopened some businesses and anticipated small events this weekend.
Most Marion County numbers are moving in the right direction - health workers can trace to another known case three out four people who test positive for the virus, and the percentage of tests coming back positive is falling.
But the number of people with COVID-19 in Marion County is still growing more quickly than state health officials would like, according to new data published May 21. The information provides the most detailed look yet at how individual counties are faring as restaurants and gyms open their doors to customers.
The state scores counties on five measures meant to give the public a detailed look at the local impact of COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority said on its website the data “inform our recommendations” but will not be the sole factor for deciding whether counties can reopen or must impose restrictions that had been repealed.
None of Oregon’s 10 most populous counties meet the state’s goals, the data shows, though nearly all have been cleared to reopen in some capacity.
Here’s how Marion and Polk compare for each.
(Graphic by Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter with data compiled by The Oregonian staff.)
Percent of tests that are positive is not increasing over past 7 days
When Oregonians first began testing positive for COVID-19, testing was reserved for those hospitalized with serious symptoms, meaning only the most sick people were getting tested. As a result, the percentage of tests coming back positive was higher.
Now, with testing more widespread, health authorities want to see the percentage of positive tests falling. This indicates that the virus is not spreading more rapidly. Marion and Polk counties are both on track.
Marion County has consistently had a much higher share of tests turn out positive than the rest of the state, hovering between 10% and 11% while Oregon has been around 5% or lower. Recently, that number has started to fall: of the 3,166 county residents tested in the past two weeks, 8.4% were positive, according to a Salem Reporter analysis of the county’s data.
Polk County’s positive testing rate has been trending down as well.
(Graphic by Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
New cases do not increase more than 5% in 7 days
Polk County is meeting this benchmark, with an 80% reduction in new cases over the past week, the state Health Authority reported..
Marion County is not yet there - the state recorded a 19% increase in new cases.
New infections that couldn’t be traced to a known source is below 30% for past seven days
Most Polk County residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week can’t be traced to another case, a red flag for health officials because knowing where the virus is spreading is key to quickly stopping larger outbreaks
Currently 75% of the county’s most recent cases are community-acquired, far above the state benchmark. Kristty Polanco, public health administrator for Polk County, said she has requested a data review with the state to determine the reason for that trend.
Marion County is well within the bounds of this benchmark, reporting just 23% of residents testing positive for the virus can’t be traced to another known case. That’s a significant improvement from where the county was in late April, when about half of cases couldn’t be traced to another, according to public health administrator Katrina Rothenberger.
(Graphic by Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
COVID-19 hospital admissions decline over the past 14 days
Both Marion and Polk are hitting this target, though the state didn’t share specific numbers and has not yet responded to a Salem Reporter request for more detailed data.
Salem Hospital, which publishes data on COVID patients twice weekly, has reported a decline in COVID-19 related hospitalizations from an April 7 peak. Their patients include both Marion and Polk county residents.
Follow-up initiated within 24 hours for at least 95% of cases in last 7 days
Polk County is following up in every case, according to state data.
Marion County, which has had far more cases per capita, is just below the benchmark at 94%, though that’s likely fluctuated in recent days.
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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.