SALEM, Ore. — The rate of positive coronavirus tests out of total tests performed in Oregon reached a high last week not seen since the very beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest testing report from the Oregon Health Authority.
The development is bad news for schools that are looking to reopen with in-person classes just a few weeks from now. One of the school metrics announced by Governor Kate Brown and OHA officials last week is a statewide test positivity rate of 5 percent or less for three weeks in a row before in-person classes will be allowed.
While Oregon's test positivity rate did dip below 5 percent during the week of July 19 through July 25, it shot up to 6.1 percent last week — the highest that Oregon's positivity rate has been since March, when testing was limited almost exclusively to a small number of people with obvious COVID-19 symptoms.
Today, we released our Weekly Testing Summary, showing 35,424 test results were reported during the week of 7/26 – 8/1: https://t.co/K479XnQLly Of those 2,174 were positive, indicating a test positivity of 6.1% one of the highest rates observed since the early pandemic. pic.twitter.com/GQnnuXbKtC
— OR Health Authority (@OHAOregon) August 3, 2020
Test positivity rate, which uses the ratio of positive to negative results each week, serves as a more accurate representation of COVID-19's spread in the state than using the number of new positive cases alone, which has almost certainly risen in part due to expanded testing.
The state reported that 35,424 tests were processed last week, down from 38,179 the week before and 39,301 during the week of July 13. The most amount of tests processed occurred during the week beginning June 28, with 39,914.
According to OHA, the state maintains a "theoretical testing capacity" of roughly 48,000 tests, based on the availability of supplies, reagents, and staff. This does not include out-of-state commercial labs. Regardless, the agency has noted a "widespread" slowdown for testing at commercial labs, sometimes with turnaround times of up to two weeks, due to a nationwide surge in cases.
"The number of tests performed each week has generally been holding steady, but supply chain issues continue to restrict Oregon’s testing capacity," OHA noted in its weekly report. "Several major manufacturers have informed OHA that testing supply allocation to OSPHL and clinical labs in Oregon may be reduced over the coming weeks due to the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases nationally and increased demand for testing."