Lane County put on Gov. Brown COVID-19 watch list

Gov. Brown attributed part of the spread in Lane County to student social activities.

Posted: Oct 16, 2020 12:07 PM
Updated: Oct 16, 2020 9:06 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Lane County is the latest to join Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 watch list.

Brown announced she was adding the county to the list in a press release on Friday.

Lane County Public Health spokesman Jason Davis said he wasn't surprised to hear the news. 

"As soon as we saw our numbers start to spike, especially in the area of the sporadic cases, we anticipated this might happen. We have been in communication with the governor's office about what this means and how it will benefit the overall effort, so no, it wasn't a surprise," Davis said. 

Davis said the amount of new cases we were seeing in a short amount of time, people dealing with COVID-19 fatigue and the return of college students all contributed to Lane County ultimately being put on the watch list. 

However, Davis said Lane County being moved to the watch list is a good thing. He said this will prioritize resources and assistance and will help get our numbers back to what they were.

Davis told KEZI 9 News that Lane County Public Health has been dealing with a compliance problem. He said some people will not return their phone calls and some don't submit the information needed to help health officials trace the spread back to a specific source. 

Davis said everyone needs to do their part to slow the spread and use common sense when making plans. 

MORE: LANE COUNTY MEETS CRITERIA FOR GOVERNOR’S WATCH LIST

Counties are placed on the watch list when there is a sporadic case rate of at least 50 per 100,000 in the last two weeks and the county has more than 5 sporadic cases in the last two weeks. 

Sporadic cases are those cases that cannot be traced to a source, which indicates community spread. 

"There is no question that the spread of COVID-19 in Lane County is connected -- to a degree -- to student social activities," Brown said. "Social gatherings, like off-campus parties, are incredibly dangerous and spread this disease. Let me be clear, though: it will take the entire county working together to bring these COVID-19 numbers under control. Once COVID-19 is spreading in the community, small family get-togethers can also lead to dozens of infections.”

Davis said it is not fair to blame the University of Oregon since they have been working nonstop to create a safe and healthy atmosphere for students and staff. He said it comes down to people's individual behaviors and right now they're focusing on the college age group. 

"The issue is, you plan for the worst but sometimes the worst is worse than you plan for. I think we certainly planned for 25 to 30 thousand college-aged people coming back into our community. What was unforseen is the attitudes of those individuals given the timeline of the pandemic when they arrived," Davis said.

Davis said that, coupled with the fact that we have a fatigue issue in our community, COVID-19 is hard to manage. He believes being put on the watch list will benefit Lane County in the long run. 

Counties remain on the watch list for a minimum of three weeks and until their sporadic case count drops below 50 per 100,000 or 5 cases or fewer in the previous two weeks. 

The watch list helps policymakers and the COVID-19 response team prioritize resources and assistance to the counties that are seeing the broadest spread of COVID-19. The assistance offered to a particular county depends on the assessment of its needs. Often it includes staffing support. 

Being on the watch list does not indicate that a county is being moved back a phase in reopening, nor is it punitive. 

The current watch list now includes Benton, Clatsop, Lane, Malheur and Umatilla counties.

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