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.