COVID-19 Pandemic Coronavirus Young Woman Wearing Surgical Mask Using Smart Phone App in City Street to Aid Contact Tracing in Response to the 2019-20 Coronavirus Pandemic

Gov. Kate Brown allowed Deschutes County to reopen even though the county did not meet state standards for contact tracers.

Finding the right balance between safeguarding public health and getting the economy going again, is not easy. But the state made the right call to allow some flexibility.

Contact tracing is necessary to try to limit the spread of the virus. As you probably already know, contact tracing describes when public health workers trace back the people an infected person has been in contact with. In Deschutes County, workers call the contacts and notify them of their possible exposure. They help support quarantining of contacts to ensure the virus doesn't spread. They check in daily.

Some counties in Oregon faced problems keeping up contact tracing. Deschutes County did not. It was able to handle the demand. But it's contact tracing did technically fall short of the state's criteria for reopening.

The state's criteria said a county must have a minimum of 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. Furthermore, it must trace 95 percent of all new cases within 24 hours. And the criteria said the workforce "must be reflective of the region and be able to conduct tracing activities in culturally appropriate way and in multiple languages as appropriate for the population."

Deschutes County's population is about 200,000. That means it should have 30 contact tracers by state standards. It's had six, for about the past two months. By a strict interpretation of the rules, the county does not meet the criteria.

The county argued it could shift staff over. It could use volunteers. It could hire additional staff or use state resources. It was a reasonable proposal and the state gave Deschutes County the OK.

People in Deschutes County took the pandemic seriously. The rate of infection did not overwhelm St. Charles Health System. That's what bending the curve is supposed to look like. It doesn't eradicate the virus. It only makes it easier to deal with. The social distancing and business shutdowns had a terrible impact on jobs and businesses. The county, the state and the nation cannot be shut down indefinitely. If the state moved the goalposts a bit to make it easier for Deschutes County to reopen, that was a reasonable thing to do.

(4) comments

CardiacSpike

What nonsense!

Either do it as originally outlined in "The Plan" and make each county accountable ("Safe") for re-opening...or don't do anything at all. If you cut Deschutes County slack then you can't hold any other county to "the standard".

Volunteers? Really? Seriously?

"Shifting personnel over"? From where, what department? With what impact? Again, really? Seriously?

And tracing, although a clinically great concept, is wholly impossible if looked at objectively. "Didn't answer their phone"..."Doesn't remember...", "Only speaks Spanish/Russian/etc".

This just proving once again you cannot fix Stupid.

Funding Secured

The fact they that these 'volunteers' have not been trained to do the work makes me wonder about their efficacy if things heat up. There is also the additional wrinkle that our relatively large tourism sector brings to the mix. I'll take the under that the county can meet the 24hr/95% metric through Q4.

Richard/s

Lets get real here. Deschutes County has a population of close to 200,000. We have a total of 101 covid19 cases reported. That amount to .0005% (5 one hundredth of 1%) of our population. Is this small percentage worth all of the economic destruction and hardship we have all been forced to endure? Perhaps covid19 has been hyped far out of proportion to reality.

BuckeyeDuck

We've been lucky due to our location and the effort put forward by the majority of folks here and across the state to keep our numbers among the nation's lowest. C19 has not been hyped out of proportion. Pray tell us your hardships. Unemployed? You'll still get back paid. Own your own small business? I suggest you contact Walden about the current admins botched loan program.

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