UO, health department urge caution ahead of holidays

The University of Oregon and county health officials are making a joint plea to the community to be safe ahead of Thanksgiving.

Posted: Nov 19, 2020 4:57 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2020 7:47 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon and county health officials are making a joint plea to the community to be safe ahead of Thanksgiving.

During a press conference Thursday, Lane County Public Health spokesperson Jason Davis appeared virtually alongside UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis to update the community ahead of the holidays.

Jarvis said UO is ramping up testing and making classes entirely remote starting at the end of the month.

“The university is pleased to see the number of COVID-19 cases associated with campus has dropped dramatically,” Jarvis said, noting peak case counts have leveled off in the past month.

Still, students getting ready to visit family and friends in the months ahead is a concern. In preparation, classes will go entirely remote on Nov. 30, allowing students the option to stay home through winter break.

Jarvis said every student living on campus will get tested this week, and students returning after Thanksgiving will get tested again. The university expects to administer 3,500 tests this week alone.

While cases decline in college students, another concern is rising. Outbreaks in the county appear to be getting worse.

Davis said a particularly troubling area is long-term care facilities. At Avamere Riverpark in Eugene, 78 cases have been reported. Many of those are traced to outside social events that make their way back into the facility. Cases have also been documented at football watch parties and birthday gatherings. A Halloween party was discovered to be the source of dozens of cases.

“Six cases from a Halloween party turned into 14 secondary cases. One of those secondary cases caused a workplace outbreak which then resulted in three cases which then resulted in eight secondary cases,” Davis said.

Davis said public health is thankful for parts of Gov. Brown’s two-week freeze, which is anticipated to help stem the spread. But he said ideally public health might have liked to see a freeze twice that length.

Another bad sign during a pandemic -- mask usage is down 5% in the county over the last week, mainly in outdoor areas. Davis said the lack of masks is especially pronounced in local parks.

“Leaving it up to the ability to put on a mask when someone is jogging towards you or you’re in an area that quickly becomes crowded, it’s not a risk we want to take,” Davis said.

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