Image for Coronavirus Illness, Death and Statistics Galore in Oregon

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in illness, death, job loss, business closures and a slew of statistics, the latter of which can be as confusing, unnerving and overwhelming as the disease and its aftermath. If it’s any consolation, statistics indicate Oregon isn’t as bad off as other states.

In the six months since the first coronavirus case was detected in Oregon, there are more than 25,408 known COVID-19 cases and 436 deaths as of Tuesday. The state has been averaging 200 or more new cases daily since June 16, with a peak of 430 new cases on July 19. The lowest new caseload in a single day since mid-June was 189 on August 17.

Virtually all sectors of Oregon’s economy have seen employment rise since the height of the economic lockdown. However, most sectors still haven’t fully recovered lost jobs and experienced a slight retreat in job restoration since June.

Oregon ranks 45th among states in the number of infections per capita and 43rd for the number of coronavirus-linked deaths. That’s a lot better than states with hotspots – or Washington, which has 66 percent more cases per capita and 2½ times the number of deaths. Oregon’s performance is less stellar when compared to South Korea, which has fewer cases and deaths, despite a population 12 times larger than Oregon’s.

As you might expect, the highest number of cases and deaths have occurred in Multnomah County (5,718/115), followed by Washington County (3,575/36) and Marion County (3,547/75). Next in line is Umatilla County with 2,566 cases and 35 deaths, which exceeds more populous Clackamas County (1,833/57).

There have been racial disparities in who has been infected. Oregon’s population is 75 percent white, yet two-thirds of new cases in the last month have been among people of color. In Washington County, 12.5 percent of the Latinx people who were tested registered positive results, compared to a statewide rate closer to 6 percent. More than half of reported coronavirus cases in Washington County involved Latinx people. In Multnomah County, Black residents account for 14 percent of cases, twice the percentage of their population in the county. Pacific Islanders comprise 3 percent of Oregon’s cases, despite accounting for just 0.4 percent of the state’s population.

Since March 8, Oregon has enrolled more than 100,000 people to the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. Many of those who have enrolled are assumed to be furloughed workers who lost their employer-provided health insurance. State officials say that isn’t true for all new enrollees since many Oregon employers have maintained health coverage for furloughed workers.

OHP’s enrollment now is approaching 1.2 million. The average cost of an enrollee is $6,000 per year, and the feds are picking up 75 percent of that cost (approximately $215 million) through the end of this year.

Attrition from the Oregon Health Plan has shrunk from a pre-pandemic 20,000 per month average to only 5,000 per month. One reason is state officials during the pandemic aren’t verifying enrollee incomes. Dropping income verification was a condition of receiving federal COVID-19 financial aid. 

Oregon’s unemployment rate as of July stood at 10.4 percent, just a nudge above the national jobless rate, but a huge drop from the state’s 14.9 unemployment high in April. Oregon’s total nonfarm employment in July stood at almost 1.8 million, down from 1.96 million in February.

Virtually all sectors of Oregon’s economy have seen employment rise since the height of the economic lockdown in the spring. However, most sectors still haven’t fully recovered lost jobs and experienced a slight retreat in job restoration since June. For example, manufacturing jobs numbered 195,000 in February, fell to 179,300 in May, bounced up in June to almost 182,000, only to fall back in July to around 180,000.

The leisure and hospitality sector has hemorrhaged the most jobs, boasting almost 217,000 jobs in February before plunging to 95,000 in May. The sector reported 154,000 jobs in July, or a recovery of 71 percent of its workforce.

While California and recently Idaho have faced upticks in new COVID-19 cases, Oregon’s numbers have remained relatively flat. Some public health experts credit Governor Brown for being among the first state leaders to issue a stay-at-home order on March 23. Oregon’s relative safe showing may reflect its large rural expanse and less exposure to international travel. It may have been aided by the slow reopening of its economy based on factors included declining coronavirus caseloads.

Wearing masks, which is now mandatory in public in Oregon, is also given credit for limiting the spread of the virus. The New York Times published an analysis that showed 75 to 85 percent of Portlanders said they wore masks always or frequently when in public, contrasted to only 58 percent of Boise residents. The rate of mask-wearing varies widely across the nation and sometimes reflects people’s political views.

Flu vaccinations may or may not have an impact on the rate of transmission of COVID-19, but they do reflect some interesting patterns of susceptibility to the new virus. Washington ranked in the top 10 states with the highest rate of vaccinations. Oregon was among the top 20 states. Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Arizona ranked in the bottom of states. California was just a nudge above the bottom 10 states.

Like elsewhere, the COVID-19 pandemic has had social impacts. After closing in the spring, Oregon schools in urban areas are gearing up to start the new school year this fall with remote learning at least until November. Fall sports have been postponed until next spring. Schools in rural areas with few if any COVID-19 cases are expected to reopen. Allowances also have been made in new guidelines from the Department of Education for in-person learning for children with special needs and for second-language learners.

Isolation has given rise to depression, including among older adults in care facilities who have been quarantined from family members. Despite fears of increased suicide threats and actual suicides, the Oregon Health Authority reports that suicide-related calls so far in 2020 are comparable to 2019. Calls to Lines of Life have increased year-to-year since 2016, OHA says, and the increase in 2020 “aligns with this trend”.

Oregon cannabis sales have spiked this year. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the industry, reported $100 million in sales in May, a 60 percent year-to-year increase. Liquor sales have also risen – 45 percent in May – as restaurants and bars have remained largely closed.

OHA manages a website that provides a trove of updated coronavirus statistics, reports and advice from a weekly testing summary, school metrics, Medicaid enrollment, hospital capacity and economic trends. There also is extensive information about resources targeted for families, caregivers, pregnant women, older adults, people with disabilities and agricultural, election and home care workers.