UPDATE — 29 September 2020: The silly season is really upon us. Every two years, and amplified tenfold every other of those two-year cycles as we vote for President of the United States, for two months between Labor Day (the first Monday of September) and Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November), political campaigns ramp up the volume as they strive to capture the attention of the voters returning to life activities centered on work, school, and home. The term "silly season" traditionally and historically describes the late summer period when, due to recesses, vacations, and "a dearth of serious news, items which would not normally get across the program or newspaper editor's desk are propelled into the public consciousness through a blaze of often unwarranted publicity." But couldn't this accurately describe the whole of 2020 so far with the oftentimes bizarre fixation by the media on the Wuhan virus?
This fixation comes through in the "reporting", often limited to citations of daily case and death counts with obligatory comments comparing the current number to previous and how it affects the rising or declining trend line. Always connected to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and/or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to lend to the "report" that imprimatur of government authority, it follows a familiar pattern: provide information that appears significant but nothing that the public can use to determine a proper course of action. Left at the mercy of the government, the public weakly accedes to the advice proffered by the experts. It's called "fear porn" for good reason.
The CDC is often viewed leading the charge to keep the level of fear high. Despite the lack of incontrovertible documentation on the virus, it continues to advocate measures predicated on the worst case: Because it is possible (we're not really sure, though) that you can contract the virus by inhaling at the same time a contagious person you pass on the street or in the store aisle exhales, you must maintain six feet distance from others and erect physical barriers. The media are all too happy, indeed eager, to push the narrative Never mind that, at least in Oregon, only 4.67% of the 16% of the populace tested have returned positive for presence of the virus. Just disregard the protocols public health agencies follow in deciding who they test: either displaying symptoms or having recent close contact with someone confirmed positive for the virus. Never mind that the majority of the 1,600+ people presumed infected don't get sick or that the overwhelming majority of those who do get sick barely notice.
So, what happens when the CDC actually has one of those rare lucid moments to report statistics that contradict the narrative? The media suddenly go mute. Of course, they could simply be waiting for the CDC to return to its normal stance. When it posted to its web site new measures based on the possibility that an infected person could pass the virus simply by virtue of living ("just by talking, or possibly even just breathing"), the media were all over it. When, however, the CDC pulled the inflammatory language with apologies, it was largely crickets. Just a couple of days later, they released newly corrected death statistics, distinguishing between "dying of" the virus and "dying with" it. These revealed that only six percent of the 200,000 deaths blamed on it were caused by, rather than coincidental to, the virus. Further, the CDC reported the deaths-per-positive-test rate is equivalent to that of the flu. A child aged birth to 19 years has a survivability rate of 99.997%; a younger adult aged 20-49 years is barely more at risk with a 99.98% rate. Even an older adult aged 50-69 years is above 99.5%, with the oldest cohort, aged 70+, surviving at a rate of 94.6%. Did you read, see, or hear about that anywhere other than on social media or conservative talk radio?
Moreover, as explored by Dr. Brian Joondeph writing in American Thinker, even the testing is suspect and likely part of a politically-weaponized con designed to influence the approaching election. "Here we are now with deaths and positive cases overstated by 90 plus percent, all to create fear and uncertainty ahead of a presidential election," he writes, having earlier quoted the New York Times of all publications, from a 29 August article in which it found, "Up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus" due to over-sensitivity of the test. "Tests with thresholds so high may detect not just live virus but also genetic fragments, leftovers from infection that pose no particular risk — akin to finding a hair in a room long after a person has left."
Statewide through Monday, 28 September, OHA had recorded 677,770 tests. 31,678 (4.67%) returned positive. Because OHA includes those tested due to contact tracing who do not test positive as "presumed" infected, they reported 33,291 cases; still less than 5% (4.91%) of all tests. The percentage of those who were ever hospitalized to treat the upper respiratory distress caused by the virus is down to under 8% (7.68% — 2,558/33,291). Emergency department visits for complaints arising from the virus remain, as they have for the last five months, well below 1%. While Marion County persists with one of the higher case-per-tested rates at 8.95% (4,779/53,369 — 8.52% (4,549/53,369) confirmed positive), the rate has been stable for over four months and continues to reflect a rate of testing that mirrors the statewide rate (15.35%) and follows protocols.
UPDATE — 14 August 2020: Editor's note: After two months away, it is time for another update. This farce has been going on for far too long. It is increasingly difficult to remain civil enough to write on this subject. I cannot count the number of times I have begun to add to this piece over the last two months but have not been able to publish it. Obviously, I succeeded this time.
The pandemic is over! Actually, it never was. Merriam-Webster defines pandemic thus: "1 [adj] — occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population (e.g. — pandemic malaria; the 1918 flu was pandemic and claimed millions of lives). 2 [noun] — an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population." Observe the two elements that must apply in order to properly describe something as "pandemic": range of impact and percentage of population affected.
We can all agree that the Wuhan virus meets the first element of the definition. After all, spreading to almost every continent on the globe qualifies for "wide geographic area". What is less certain is the real impact of the virus on the population. Can we honestly claim that an "exceptionally high proportion" of any population has been affected by it? To accurately assess, we need to differentiate between actual impact of the virus and the impact of our responses. Simply put, the impact of any contagion is limited to people getting sick and either succumbing to or recovering from said infection. Related aspects include duration of illness, lasting consequences, and acquisition of immunity. Other factors, such as how the contagion spreads, mitigation tactics, and controls placed on the public by authorities, speak more to our responses.
So, how shall we determine if the Wuhan virus "affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population"? Let's start with some numbers. Most authoritative estimates place global population at somewhere north of "7,800,000,000 people as of March 2020." As of 16 August 2020 global reported confirmed cases totaled 21,480,111. 771,518 deaths had been attributed to the virus while 13,462,165 of those ill reported to have recovered from illness.
One could easily argue that to qualify as an "exceptionally high proportion", the number would have to represent at least 50% of the whole. After all, election results, for example, are considered in "landslide" territory at 55%-45%. But if we want to account for our emotional sympathies when addressing illness and death, for the sake of argument, let's set the bar at 10%; we're talking 780,000,000. Even with the inevitable manipulation of the numbers by reporting agencies around the globe, a mere 0.275% or two-hundred-seventy-five-one-thousandths of one percent of the world's people have gotten sick from the Wuhan virus.
Let's look at it another way. The population of the United States is estimated to be somewhat more than 330,000,000, ranking it the third-most populous nation behind the People's Republic of China and India. Even if all 21+ million people reported infected were from the United States, the proportion of the population affected would still amount to only 6.49%; remember, though, 64.67% (probably low) of those infected have reported that they have recovered. The death total (let's face it, the number is badly inflated) would be about two-tenths of one percent (0.234%) of the nation's population.
As it currently stands in the U.S., the media seemingly rejoice to report that there have been 5,482,825 cases in this country with 172,056 deaths attributed or related to the virus, both the most reported by any nation on the globe. The media, however, fail to do the simple math that shows that cases amount to only about 1.66% and deaths just 0.052% of the population.
The numbers are even more stark in Oregon. The state's population is estimated to be slightly more than 4.3 million (4,301,090). By Friday, 14 August (the number of tests given is not provided over the weekend), OHA reported 22,613 cases, of which 21,441 had confirmed positive test results. The additional 1,172 cases over positive tests include those who displayed symptoms and had contact with at least one person who had tested positive, but had not yet suffered a positive test result. OHA has administered a total of 471,935 tests; equivalent to almost 11% of the state (10.97%). This last statistic itself should tell you that Oregon has not been seriously touched by the virus: We are into the sixth month of tracking the virus but OHA has barely reached 10% of the state, if that (citing the number of tests administered is different than citing number of people tested since there are undoubtedly many people who had to be tested more than once before receiving a positive result), following protocols for testing. Nearly 90% of the state has never met the minimum standard set to be subjected to a test; more than 95% of the tests have returned negative.
Clearly, Oregon meets the first element of pandemic: Every county in the state has recorded a case. Just as clearly, though, the state is not experiencing a pandemic since the number of people directly affected by the virus (cf. the irresponsible actions taken by the State in its response) is minuscule: Less than one-half of one percent (0.4985%) of the state has confirmed being infected by the Wuhan virus. Only eight percent (8%) of all those infected have ever been hospitalized to treat the illness. The 385 deaths attributed to the virus constitute the ridiculously small proportion of 0.00895% — eight-hundred-ninety-five-one-hundred-thousandths of one percent — or one person in about every 11,000 people.
What kind of information could media provide that would be more helpful? At the very least, when discussing new cases, the total number of people contacted. For example, when reporting "[x number of] new cases" add that OHA and medical providers reached "[y number of] people" or "administered [y number of] tests". If a reporter were really thorough, one would provide more information like the number of those who display symptoms but never test positive (assuming multiple tests), how many of the "new" cases are getting counted twice (i.e. once when first tested as symptoms appear (presumed case) and once again when later testing positive (confirmed cases)), and how many people who fall outside of the testing protocols still get tested, especially if any of this group test positive. Unfortunately, all we continue to get is hype.
UPDATE — 12 June 2020: While taking part in ORP's Inside Scoop broadcast, host Suni Danforth broke in with "Breaking News" to announce that the governor had declared a "pause" in Oregon's reopening process. KOIN-TV reported that she "issued a week-long, statewide 'pause' on all pending applications for reopening" because of what she (and OHA? apparently) deemed a dramatic surge in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths attributed to the Wuhan virus. Monday's OHA report, covering the two weekend days, showed 352 new cases, while Thursday's report showed an additional 178 new cases. "The noticeable increase in COVID-19 infections in Oregon over the past week is cause for concern," she asserted in her written statement. She added, "In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days."
She's lying. She knows she's lying. The OHA reports prove it.
Let's dispel one thing right off the top: These numbers have nothing to do with the protests-cum-riots. Once again the answer lies in what never gets said. The truth is, neither the new cases number nor the death number by itself means anything. Without at least the context of the number of those tested, we have no idea if the new cases number indicates something outside the status quo. So, the context: Monday's 352 new cases took the rate of positive cases per tested from 3.10% (4,442/143,118) on Friday to 3.19% (4,775/149,732). Thursday's 178 new cases brought the rate to 3.24% (5,237/161,643). That rate is lower than what the OHA reported on 23 March — the date this site started tracking the virus. At the start of the third week into the declared emergency, the rate was 4.97% (191/3840). It is even lower than where it stood when Oregon began "reopening". Although not truly significant — a difference of only 0.66% — it shows that the statewide impact of the virus is steady and unchanged.
Other metrics don't even require so much work (you know, math), just simple observations; just read the report! The governor claimed an increase in hospitalizations over the week. On Monday, HOSCAP (see pg 2) reported that hospitals were treating a total of 137 patients for Wuhan-like symptoms. Fewer than half (65) were confirmed for Wuhan; of the 43 patients in ICU, only 24 were confirmed; 18 patients were on ventilators. By Thursday — the day the governor justified her "pause" by citing increasing hospitalizations — HOSCAP reported seven fewer patients (see pg 2). There was, however, one more patient requiring a ventilator; that must be the increase she meant. So, what was it like on 15 May, reopening day? See pg 2: 161 total patients (54 confirmed Wuhan); 46 patients in ICU (20 confirmed Wuhan); 19 patients on ventilators (14 confirmed Wuhan). By the way, that last stat shows that Thursday's 19 ventilators could not be that increase. Even the rate of those ever hospitalized going all the way back to January is going down since reopening: On 15 May 20% (691/3,541) of those who had ever tested positive had been hospitalized; on Thursday, the percentage had declined to 16% (864/5,237).
Finally, the other hospital service affected — the Emergency Department — has for quite a while now (nearly two months) been barely a blip on the graph (see pg 4 of any OHA report). On or about 12 April the percentage of visits attributed to symptoms resembling Wuhan illness started dancing around 1%, down from its high of 6% in mid-March. By the first week of May that percentage dropped below 1% and has stayed there to present. On Thursday, the rate was at its lowest-ever point, i.e. nearly zero (0).
It is a serious matter to accuse someone of lying (although too many seem to equate saying something disagreeable or simply making a mistake to lying). A lie is any statement known by the speaker to be false but spoken with the intent of deceiving the listener into treating the statement as true. The operative word here is intent. Three times in her statement Thursday, the governor described the virus as spreading or increasing: "In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly . . . ." The "pause will give public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus . . . ." "The noticeable increase in . . . infections in Oregon over the past week . . . ." When even a casual reading of the reports provided to both her and the public by her own "public health experts" reveals that the virus is neither spreading nor increasing, one can conclude she knows the truth but intends to get the public to believe something that is not to be true (BTW, apparently the media have fallen for it [see second paragraph]).
She led off her statement with an ostensibly "true" statement: "When we began reopening nearly a month ago, I was clear that . . . case counts would rise. We now see that happening in several parts of the state, both urban areas and rural communities." Yes, there are more cases than there were on 15 May. But she nevertheless lied because she omitted the qualifier that the increase in cases was directly linked and in proportion to the increased testing.
She went on to say: "As we navigate the reopening, we are carefully monitoring the capacity of our public health system to respond to . . . cases without becoming overwhelmed." Again, a true statement as far as anyone can tell. Again, the impression left with the listener is a lie. The health system is nowhere in the State overwhelmed by people complaining of and/or exhibiting symptoms attributable to the Wuhan virus.
Once again, Marion County falls victim to the governor's lies. Along with Hood River and Polk counties, we had applied to enter Phase 2 effective today. The pause took priority over the interests of the counties to reopen, delaying their progress at least a week. Multnomah County hoped for approval to finally begin Phase 1 of its reopening, but Portland news outlets reported the application was rejected.
UPDATE — 31 May 2020: Shall we hold our collective breath? With the exception of Multnomah County, Oregon is well into Phase 1 reopening protocols. As long as we don't breathe on each other we can continue to relax and break forth out of our cocoons. Marion County is entering just its second week while most of the rest of the state is (supposedly) in the home stretch of the phase. So what do the numbers tell us? The statewide numbers reveal no change: Testing criteria, not having changed, means that only those displaying symptoms get tested. Even with the emphasis on contact tracing there has been no surge in tests administered. The gap between presumed cases — symptoms without a positive test but recent contact with one confirmed — and positive tests is greater than 100. Even using the higher number, the rate of cases per tested is 3.30%. Hospitals report that while ER visits have been trending upward (see pg 4) since the beginning of April, patients either complaining of or displaying Wuhan-related symptoms have stopped coming. For the entire month of May virus-related visits accounted for less than 1% of the total.
Marion County, although with some higher numbers, follows the trend. Per Commissioner Colm Willis, the State rejected the county's initial application to reopen on the 15th because our case count had risen in the week of the application over the previous week — from 33 to 34. Despite that "unacceptable increase", Salem Health reported that only four (4) beds throughout their system were being used for Wuhan patients with more than 700 beds at the ready. As of Saturday, the county has administered 10,467 tests. 928 have returned positive, a rate of 8.9%. That is a dramatic drop since the last update below, given the two-month-long duration of the 10%+ rate. Three new patients admitted to the hospital. The goal is to stay on this path so that our business environment can continue to improve.
UPDATE — 15 May 2020: Marion County got screwed. The governor's office and OHA tried to justify this rape in their rejection of its plan by claiming a spike in cases during May and a lack of tracing capacity. Laughingly, one of the criteria to be met by counties is 14 days of cases in decline. By that criterion alone not one county can qualify; at best, a county can point to 14 days of flat numbers. Yet the governor and OHA approved the plans of all counties that applied save Marion and Polk. So this supposed spike? On 9 May the county reported 43 new cases — its highest single-day total ever. The bar's height is accentuated further by the extremely small bars on the days before and after — 13 on 8 May and 8 on 10 May. Also, much has been made, even here, about the county's high incidence rate. The rate of people testing positive per people tested as of today's report still sits at 11.27%. The rate is virtually unchanged from the 11.35% rate reported on 27 March in this space. The "spike" is immaterial given the two-month long steady rate.
On the contact-tracing front, two items showed up: a peek at Marion County's application (see pg 10) reveals that the state requires the county to have 52 people ready to conduct tracing. The county was able to rustle up 50, including 20 committed from OHA by the time it submitted its application. Additionally, the director of OHA pointed out at Thursday's press conference that despite the county's claim to be "meeting the requirement to trace 95% of all new cases within 24 hours", the county was falling far short of that goal, reaching only 40%. But the value of contact tracing is, at the very best, marginal, particularly because response to any query for such information is voluntary. Besides, with an incubation period of up to two weeks, details of one's movements and contacts can become quite foggy; to be urged to recall such details with such a short deadline seems to lack integrity. To deny the county's application on these counts is ludicrous.
UPDATE — 5 May 2020: In a way, Marion County can't catch a break. On the other hand, it epitomizes what is so wrong about the continuing lockdown of the State. Over the last week plus, the rate of positive cases per tested remained above 10% (10.73% — 574/5,351) today, one of the highest rates in the state. By comparison, Lane County, which has tested nearly as many people (5,324), reports a mere 60 cases. That's a rate of only 1.13%, or about one (1) for every 53 tested. Multnomah County, having tested the most people (14,952) and reporting the most cases (769), still maintains a 5.14% rate close to the state average of 4.34%. Washington County's situation has remarkably improved, bringing its infection rate per tested down to 5.49% (531/9,665), almost half of its rate a few weeks ago. Despite the relatively high rate of confirmed cases, the hospitals remain underwhelmed.
Statewide, only 22% of people presumed and confirmed to have contracted disease from the Wuhan virus have ever been hospitalized. Today, only 219 people are in the hospital because of complaints or symptoms of the disease; fewer than one-half (93) of those are confirmed Wuhan-positive. 49 patients are being treated in Intensive Care Units, with 25 of those patients on ventilators. On any given day three, four, even five times the number of those hospitalized remain home and ER visits by those complaining of Wuhan symptoms remains a measly 1% of all those treated. Yet all one hears on any given news broadcast or reads in print media is, "X new cases in Oregon and y people died, bringing the total deaths to z." The nonsense needs to stop.
UPDATE — 25 April 2020: It is still so disappointing to read, listen to, or watch news reports regarding the Wuhan virus. The take away in most cases is that the situation is still getting worse despite all the evidence to the contrary. Oregon's numbers are no different. This morning's report from the OHA reported 76 more people tested positive and one person died yesterday. That information caught the headline with the comment "infections increasing". Fact check: The rate of positive results per tested remains stable, if not indicating a slight downward trend, at 4.76%. After being one of the first counties to report a death a month ago, Lane County reported its second yesterday.
Of more importance relative to the governor's executive order: The rate of hospitalization (ever hospitalized) remains the same at 24% while the number of those currently hospitalized declined by 42 in the last five days. Emergency departments likewise report declining number of patients and Wuhan complaints continue to float around 1% (see pg 4). Five counties still have no cases at all and four Valley counties (unfortunately, Marion County is still one of them) account for more than 1,700 of the 2,253 cases statewide. Perhaps that explains why local news outlets available in the Salem area still focus on the hype: We are caught right in the middle of the epicenter, particularly Multnomah County.
UPDATE — 20 April 2020: What has all this hype and fear-mongering wrought? With the media focusing solely on new cases and deaths, occasionally featuring a story of someone who recovered as if out of the ordinary, we are led to believe that this virus is much more lethal than it is. Consider the following:
- Oregon is testing only those who display symptoms. There are accounts of people requesting to be tested who are turned away because their symptoms do not appear to be "severe" enough.
- Of those tested, fewer than 5% (as of today OHA reports a rate of 4.88%) of those tested (see previous bullet) return positive for the virus. That means for every 100 people who complain of symptoms AND are considered "severe" enough to be tested, only five — 5 — are ill due to the Wuhan virus. This has remained much the same for the last month.
- OHA and the State Emergency Coordination Center (ECC), a unit of Oregon's Office of Emergency Management (OEM), began issuing daily tracking reports on 26 March. On that date the report noted:
- 316 positive tests and 6,953 negative tests for a total of 7,269 tests; a 4.35% positive rate per tested.
- Of those 316, only 90 were known to be hospitalized; roughly 27%. Nearly twice as many (170) remained out of the hospital. There were 50 whose status were unknown/not reported.
- Hospitals reported they had available 362 ICU beds and 2,193 regular beds. They had 684 ventilators.
- Emergency departments were already reporting a decreasing number of visitors and a minimal impact of the Wuhan virus on their overall numbers. Although the ECC report declared "the percentage of COVID-like visits is increasing" (the graph was a week behind AND its dates were off; compare the graph from today's report on pg 4) we now know (isn't hindsight wonderful?) that it had peaked twelve days before, Saturday, 14 March, and again eight days later, Sunday, 22 March; the peak was just above 6% both times. They knew it was actually declining.
This is the science. Science starts with observation. It then progresses to hypothesizing, theorizing, and finally establishing scientific law. At no point is modeling — which is all that is driving the pandemic fear — considered science. It is used as one means of testing. Only when the modeling results are borne out by actual observation is modeling worth discussing. Governor Brown needs to look to the example of South Dakota governor Kristi Noem. Although we can't turn back the clock, we can lift ALL the restrictions IMMEDIATELY.
UPDATE — 14 April 2020: "[Wuhan virus] cases soared above 1,600 today," was the teaser headline given by the Fox-12 anchor this afternoon; fact-check: OHA reported 50 new cases this morning, bringing the cumulative total of cases to 1,633. There were also two deaths; did the number of deaths "soar" to 55? Anyway, the steady pace of testing is having the desired effect by revealing a steady number of positive test results. Yesterday was 57, today 50. The unreported aspect of all this is that the rate of positive results per tested is still just 5.05% after two weeks of tracking. 95% of the tests every day come back negative across the state! What's more, patients hospitalized due to Wuhan-related complaints have declined by nearly 100 since OHA began reporting the statistic last week (4/8); confirmed Wuhan patients hospitalized have also declined but not as dramatically. But the statewide average is not the most important part of the story. That is why every update here has focused on regional and county results, particularly the Willamette Valley surrounding Marion County.
Only four counties have more than 100 reported positive test results: Multnomah, Washington, Marion, and Clackamas in descending order (Note that all four are in the northern Willamette Valley). The next closest (Deschutes) reports 55, less than half the number in Clackamas. Multnomah County has experienced the most deaths, as well, with 20, followed by Marion, Washington, and Yamhill, for a total of 43 out of the 55 reported in the state; Josephine County's single death is still the only one reported outside of the Willamette Valley. The governor's announcement today of her intention to coordinate with California and Washington in beginning to lift restrictions is a long time coming. By all indications, Oregon never needed to go down that road.
UPDATE — 12 April 2020: Happy Resurrection Sunday! One could only hope that the governor would start taking the steps necessary to resurrect Oregon's economy. More likely, however, she will overreact in the opposite direction to the new death reported by OHA. Josephine County announced the first death to the Wuhan virus outside of the Willamette Valley. That to her can only mean the crisis is worsening. Adding to that perception, the last remaining virus-free county west of the Cascades — Coos — reported its first confirmed positive test result after 318 negative ones. That and the nearly 200 new cases over the last two days throughout the state, raising the total to 1,527. Is reality finally going to confirm the fears stoked by the the model (and how about the media?), albeit two weeks late? Uhh, not likely.
The rate of positive test results per tested remains at a little more than 5% (5.13%). The case fatality rate is 3.41%, ranked 20th in the nation; Oregon ranks 33rd in actual number of deaths. 50 people suspected to have had or recovered from Wuhan infection were discharged from hospitals this weekend. Six counties, all east of the Cascades now, report no positive tests for the Wuhan virus. Jackson County reports one of the lowest rates of positive tests at 1.62% (46/2829). At this end of the state, however, Marion County holds steady at 11.55% (276/2390), Washington County has declined a percent to 8.72% (348/2990), and Multnomah County leads both in positive tests and deaths while staying close to the State's rate at 5.72% (374/6529). Emergency departments continue to report declining numbers overall, with a sharp drop this weekend, and the percentage of Wuhan complaints dropped to 1%. [See pg 4] Like everywhere else, relying on models proves to be lousy science detached from reality.
UPDATE — 10 April 2020: Andrew McCarthy wrote in yesterday's National Review Online, "The model on which the government is relying [University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)] is simply unreliable." His focus is on the national-level agencies represented by the White House and CDC, but the same can be said for all the states. He went on to write, "It is not that social distancing has changed the equation; it is that the equation's fundamental assumptions are so dead wrong, they cannot remain reasonably stable for just 72 hours." [Emphasis added] Despite the fact that even in the hardest-hit counties in the Willamette Valley — including Marion County — that reality has never lived up to projections, OHA is still operating on an "Anticipated Instability" footing, meaning they expect "patient influx to Oregon hospitals in the coming weeks, if infection rates continue, will cause significant surge and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage throughout the region." [See pg. 5]
Not one entry in the daily OHA updates over the entire time we have been tracking it gives the agency any reason to still be operating on a raised alert status. Only faulty IHME projections explains the expectation of instability; progression of the disease reporting has been completely stable. The rate of positive test results per tested remains at 5% (5.04%) statewide. Despite an additional 10 deaths over the previous two days, the death rate per confirmed case is still only 3.5%. Multnomah County has seen the greatest surge in deaths, accounting now for one-third (17) of the 48 deaths. The nine Valley counties still are the only ones to report any deaths. Seven counties still report no cases at all. Emergency Departments report that people displaying Wuhan-related symptoms continue to "make up a small proportion" of those seeking ED services and "total ED visits are declining" [See pg 4]. The percentage of Wuhan-related complaints is also decreasing, reaching 2% in today's report. Oh, and remember Dr. Hinkley? Turns out he was more right than wrong; OHA continues to show a definite downward trendline following 19 March. It's time for Oregon to get back to work. Let's set the example for the rest of the states to follow.
UPDATE — 8 April 2020: The most alarming thing that happened today was the closure of Oregon K-12 classrooms by the governor's decree. Although Marion County Republican Rep. Christine Drazan admitted that the action "comes as no surprise" because "the Oregon Department of Education indicated they would likely close schools for the remainder of the year in their earlier guidance", it still begs the question, "Why?". As repeatedly pointed out here, at no time has the information provided daily by OHA supported the governor's statewide action. Today's figures were no different: Seven counties (Baker, Coos, Gilliam, Harney, Jefferson, Lake, Wheeler) still report no positive tests for the Wuhan virus; all 38 deaths are confined to the Willamette Valley, with all but seven occurring in the four most populous counties of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Marion; of 440 people hospitalized describing Wuhan-like symptoms, only a third (156) have actually tested positive; there are still more than 2,100 beds available in Oregon hospitals; of the 1,239 people testing positive for the virus, only a third of them (324) have spent time in a hospital.
The statewide rate of positive tests per tested remains at 5% (5.04%). Marion County's rate remains at 11.14% (218/1957/9). Two counties, due solely to the low number of people tested, have higher rates despite the fact that only one (Sherman — 7 tests) or two people (Wallowa — 15 tests) returned positive. Along with Washington County at 9.23% (295/3195/6), these counties do the most to keep the state rate up. Although a few more days will be needed to confirm, the Wuhan outbreak in Oregon appears to be on the wane (See charts on pg 3).
UPDATE — 6 April 2020: Oregon hospitals have admitted 400 patients (or 404, depending on which column you accept) for treatment of the Wuhan virus since reporting the first case on 28 February 2020. Why is this important? One of the goals used to justify both Executive Orders was "to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity". From that date to now on only six days were 10 or more patients admitted to hospitals upon onset of symptoms. With more than half of all Oregon cases confined to three counties — Washington, Multnomah, Marion — hospital staff here should be especially glad that the number of cases is so low. Portland's OHSU hospital, the largest in Portland, has 562 beds and today all of nine were caring for Wuhan patients; 12 had been discharged, while two had died. To date OHSU has handled 52 Wuhan cases, only 23 as in-patients.
OHA's daily updates continue to belie the need for statewide restrictions as mandated by the governor's Executive Orders. Although the number of counties reporting no active cases has dropped to seven over the two weeks we have been tracking this statistic (Curry County is the latest to report positive cases), the rate of positive results per tested remains steady at 5.19% (1,132/21,801). Marion County continues to drive this high average with an 11.5% positive rate (209/1,818). Washington County is on a four-day downward trend, reporting 270 positive results out of 2,785 tested, 9.69%. Multnomah County still tracks the overall state rate with 5.03% (243/2848). More than 2,500 adult hospital beds remain available along with more than 600 ventilators.
One last note: "Dr. Hinkley" (homage to The Professor on Gilligan's Island) argued over the weekend that Oregon cases of Wuhan have already peaked and are declining, no thanks to the Executive Orders. Although no believer in the models upon which OHA, hospital, and county boards of public health are relying, I tend to believe that the "doctor" makes a fatal mistake. The date he ascribes for when the governor's order would begin to show impact falls within the period of time the OHA acknowledges that not all cases have been reported. See this blog post countering the article for a complete discussion.
UPDATE — 4 April 2020: "More than double" the number of cases "one week ago". Such was the emphasis from Fox12 reporters all day Friday. Sounds ominous; tragic, even. Just more hype. Without context, such reporting is just plain sloppy. With OHA reporting this morning that 999 (that's right, one short of four figures, by now long passed) people had tested positive, it's not that difficult to establish context. The most immediate is the number of tests — 18,925 — and let's not forget the number of negative results, comprising some 94.72% of all the tests. Drawing from the percentages reported below, the rate of positive cases per tested has remained quite stable, rising a bit less than ½ of 1% over the last two weeks. Another piece of context is the increasing number of stories coming from those who are now recovering; such stories should start becoming more common in the coming days.
The northern Willamette Valley continues to bear the brunt of the Wuhan virus onslaught with five more deaths over the last two days, bringing the total mortality figure to 26. Polk County, the final holdout, reported its first death; Multnomah County leads with six deaths, Marion, Washington, Clackamas, and Yamhill counties follow with five, four, three, and three, respectively, Linn County reports two, while Polk, Benton, and Lane fill the the valley with one each. Marion County continues to have the highest rate of positive cases per tested at 12% (188/1567) and Washington County, with the most cases overall, ranks second at 10.28% (247/2403). Multnomah County, by far, has tested the most people (4,209) and despite the six deaths, has a rate of positive cases per tested right in line with the state average at 4.97%. The point is this: This so-called crisis is not a statewide problem. The governor should leave it to the governments of the worst-affected counties to help their people live through the virus and let the rest of the state begin to return to some sense of normal.
UPDATE — 2 April 2020: "All Quiet on the Western Front". As the anti-WWI novel closes, the central character, a young German conscript, pokes his head above the trench wall to follow the flight of a bird. A single shot rings out and the soldier falls back dead. Today, one can honestly say that it is quiet on the Oregon front. Three more deaths from Marion, Multnomah, and Washington counties bring the death count to 21. The 826 people testing positive for the virus represents a 5.14% rate of positive cases per people tested, another increase of about 0.15%. Marion County's rate rose to 11.81% while Washington County dropped to 10.53%. Ten counties remain free of Wuhan cases. And then there are the Oregon media stories of elderly survivors, including a Yamhill County WWII veteran aged 95 years and a Linn County veteran celebrating his 104th birthday this week.
Nationally, Oregon ranks 27th in number of deaths and 28th (tied with Idaho) in number of deaths per one million population. The case fatality rank, though, is a surprisingly high 17th, which is higher than states like California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida.
UPDATE — 31 March 2020: That's it! To retain any sense of sanity these days one needs to follow this singular piece of advice: Turn off the national news! Every report, yes, every word proceeding from the mouths of the TV characters seeks only to instill fear. Whether highlighting the latest complaint against the president, the number of new cases or deaths, or the impact on hospitals and medical staff, the report gets spun in the way that will elicit the worst negative response. More importantly, not one story has any relevance to the Oregon experience. By focusing on locales such as New York City and Los Angeles while ignoring others where the numbers are much lower, the reports leave the impression that the entire country is facing a truly dire situation. Would it hurt them so much to point out that even in New York, the fatality rate per case is a mere 2.26%? That's less the the state's death rate for flu.
Oregon is in a three-way tie for 25th when ranking the states by number of deaths (with Nevada and Maryland) and in a three-way tie for 22nd (with Wisconsin and S. Carolina) in deaths per million population. The state falls in the middle, at 29th, in terms of number of cases and that number translates to 163.6 cases per million population, a lowly 37th, even lower than Wyoming, the only state reporting no deaths due to the Wuhan virus.
Wallowa County reported its first positive test as of today, leaving 10 counties still with no cases. The five people who died over the last two days were all more than 80 years old. Clackamas, Yamhill, and Linn counties each reported one victim, while two lived in Benton County — the first from that county — bringing the death toll to 18. The statewide rate of positive cases per tested rose slightly to 4.99%, with Marion and Washington counties driving that increase; both counties reported an 11.11% rate, on average a 1.5% rise over the two days.
With all the interest shown in ventilators, at least nationally, Oregonians should be pleased to learn that so few are needed here. The OHA report began today to track the number of ventilators actually in use in addition to the number available. The report also indicates that most people testing positive are remaining at home — only 219 people have been admitted to hospitals for treatment of Wuhan infection and only 40 patients are requiring a ventilator. That leaves 749 in the wings.
UPDATE — 29 March 2020: First the bad news — one new death, 130 more people testing positive, one more county reported a positive test. Yamhill County reported the thirteenth death, its first, attributed to the Wuhan virus. All 13 people who have died resided in the Willamette Valley, with all but two in the northern half of the valley. They also belonged to the cohort reported to be most vulnerable — aged 60+, with five deaths each among those aged 70-79 years and those over 80 years. Marion County is virtually tied with Washington County for the highest percentage of positive cases per tested at 9.46% and 9.79% respectively. At the other end of the spectrum in the region are Multnomah County with a mere 3.31%, Yamhill County at 3.47%, and Clackamas County at 3.68%; the statewide percentage remains stable at 4.70%.
All but two — Coos and Curry — of the remaining eleven counties that report no Wuhan cases are on the east side of the Cascades. Deschutes County reports 23 cases while the total number of cases in the rest of those counties is 16. This likely contributes to the overall lack of strain on medical resources. OHA reports that there remain available 2,010 regular adult hospital beds with an additional 285 adult ICU beds. Oregon hospitals report that they have 767 ventilators available.
To date, a bit over half of the people testing positive for the virus (316) have spent time in a hospital. On the other hand, there have been only 149 hospital admissions directly attributed to Wuhan. It's still too early to declare victory, but those advising the governor should certainly look to some alternatives to statewide action in order to concentrate resources where most needed.
UPDATE — 27 March 2020: 98 NEW CASES! WASHINGTON COUNTY REPORTS 30% OF OREGON CASES! Just a couple of the almost breathless (pun intended) headlines hyping today's OHA-updated Wuhan tracking report. What has been left out consistently by media is that the higher number of new cases over the last few days (75 on Wednesday, 98 today) simply reflects expanded testing capability. As of 9:30 this morning, when OHA posted its update, of 8,510 people tested, 414 returned positive; bottom-line, an infection rate per tested of 4.86%. Wednesday's reported figures translated to . . . 4.86%. Does anyone see anything over which to get so excited?
On a more somber note, four more counties reported their first Wuhan cases, leaving twelve — still 1/3 of Oregon's counties — virus-free. At the other end of the spectrum, Marion County now reports the highest percentage of positive reports per tested at 11.35% (Actually, Grant County, which reports only one positive result, is highest since they have tested only that one person). Washington County, with the highest number of people reporting infection at 122, is just under 11%; the same counties reported the two deaths that brought the total to 12. In addition to the twelve counties with no infections, Jackson County, with nearly 1,000 tested, reports only six people returning positive — 0.63%.
UPDATE — 25 March 2020: Nationally, President Trump yesterday expressed his hope that the country could begin returning to a normal footing by Easter. Would that Oregon listens since, even though reports from OHA show more people testing positive, the rate of spread is stable. OHA reported 75 new cases, raising to 266 the total number of people testing positive. 5,476 people have now been tested; still over 95% returning negative. All five new deaths occurred in the lower Willamette Valley — one more each in Marion, Multnomah, and Washington counties along with two deaths in Clackamas — bringing the total to ten. Two counties fell into the ranks of the infected, leaving 16 counties still reporting no one testing positive.
ORIGINAL POST — 23 March 2020: The words are severe. The faces display sincere earnestness. "Stay home. Stay healthy." Good advice? Sure. The Wuhan virus is on the loose. It is virulent, highly contagious at just about any stage, and deadly. As with any virus, no body is safe until its immune system beats down an infection, killing all viral organisms by producing antibodies. These antibodies remain in the body, preventing all future incursions of the particular virus, achieving immunity.
Therein lies the rub. Antibodies are custom-made for each virus. The slightest variation or mutation of a virus renders antibodies already created by one's immune system useless; the body must start all over again and that takes time. The Wuhan virus, aka COVID-19, belongs to a family of viruses generally known as Coronavirus, Latin for "crown", so named for its resemblance, when rendered in 2-D, to the sun's corona surrounding the moon during a solar eclipse. Ailments ranging from the "common" cold (more often caused, along with influenza, by Rhinovirus, however), to the much more serious, even deadly, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are caused by coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that Wuhan is 70% genetically similar to SARS.
Although the documented recovery rate from the Wuhan virus hovers around 97%, with most experiencing mild symtoms and recovering in two to six weeks, many of those now immune have paid a pretty high price. The virus settles in the lungs, inflaming the alveoli and air sacs, causing them to fill with fluid that restricts the lungs' capacity to provide oxygen to the body. Like flu can lead to pneumonia, severe cases of Wuhan can lead to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). A recent report in Business Insider examined experiences in Great Britain, pointing out, "[t]hough the lungs of coronavirus survivors could return to 'apparently normal' after six months with minimal issues — like a weakened ability to exercise — those who go on to develop ARDS could 'take as long as 15 years for their lungs to recover,' [according to intensive care physicians cited by] London's Sunday Times." The report also cited a Hong Kong Hospital Authority study that found loss of lung capacity could reach 20% to 30%. leaving those so "recovered" gasping for breath after a short quick-paced walk.
So, yes, contracting Wuhan is not going to land on anyone's bucket list. Considering that one can be contagious even though asymptomatic, any sane person is going to take steps to avoid contact with people while adopting hygiene practices known to mitigate chances of getting sick — any sickness. After all, when news stories about Wuhan began to flood U.S. and local media, we were at the height of the winter cold and flu season. Graphics similar to the one at left proliferated on social media, along with others comparing prevalence of flu and Wuhan, offering at least a little solace that most likely one was not coming down with the latter. Even once it reached the U.S. and began spreading widely, one is more than a thousand times more likely to contract the flu.
It's even more stark in Oregon. As of 23 March, the Oregon Health Authority's official numbers reveal that of 3,840 people statewide who have been tested for Wuhan, only 191 have returned positive. That is less than a 5% rate of infection among those tested. Half of the counties report no cases at all. All five deaths reported in Oregon attributed to Wuhan have occurred in five Willamette Valley counties — one each in Washington (with the highest number of cases at 69), Multnomah (highest number tested but fewer than a third of the infections found in Washington county), Marion, Linn, and Lane.
Oregon finds itself sandwiched between two states where the number of cases long ago cracked four figures. California has more than ten times the number of cases reported here while Washington reports more than twenty times both cases and deaths; more than half of those cases and 80% of the deaths are from King County (read Seattle). Despite the fractional nature of the impact in this state, the governor on Monday issued Executive Order 20-12 that builds on previous directives to mirror California's "shelter-in-place" order prohibiting "non-essential" travel. Washington's governor followed suit later in the afternoon.
Chief among the justifications expressed by the governor was preventing crushing the capacity of hospitals to serve their communities. At 69 people testing positive for Wuhan in Washington county and given the size of the county, one could argue point made. But the bulk of the county's population is within a few miles of downtown Portland. It stands to reason that almost all of those 69 people, upon showing symptoms requiring hospitalization, can be adequately handled by one of the nearly ten hospitals in the Portland Metro area, leaving the hospital in Hillsboro able to serve the rest of the people living in the rural western portion of the county. Remember, Multnomah county has all of 20 people reporting positive for Wuhan.
Leading the charge to urge the governor's overreach were twenty-five mayors in the Portland Metro region, members of the Metropolitan Mayors Consortium. They were joined by the commissioners of the three counties and Metro in urging the governor to remove the heat that would have been on them for more targeted (though still wrong and wrong-headed) declarations that would have spared the rest of the state. Portland's mayor, Ted Wheeler, declared in an interview that had not the governor announced restrictions statewide, he and other mayors of the consortium would have issued their own.
Aside from the sketchy logistical and administrative arguments for the order, the governor blatantly contravenes fundamental precepts of liberty that undergird both the U.S. and Oregon constitutions. Conservatives and libertarians are raising questions over these acts, claiming they are tantamount to declarations of martial law. Indeed, by attaching Class C misdemeanor penalties to any charged violation of her orders, the governor clearly has grasped heartily her inner authoritarian. They see no justification for levying such severe restrictions on the life activities of Oregonians when half of the counties report no cases.
Most of the elected officials have sent out multiple newsletters regarding Wuhan over the past two months. In the interest of completeness, this site has chosen to preserve all of them rather than replacing each superseded one with the latest letter as is the normal practice. As long as the representative, senator, or commissioner writes principally about the virus in one's letter, we will add it as an update. The updates are placed above the previous communication, with the "original" letter appearing at the bottom of the page.
Of those who communicate through newsletter, Sen. Brian Boquist (SD 12), Sen. Kim Thatcher (SD 13), and Sen. Alan Olsen (SD 20) have not addressed Wuhan (Don't think, however, that you should ignore these letters. Sens. Boquist and Olsen wrote powerful letters regarding Cap & Scam. Both are worth reading). While each official adopts the government line, providing information regarding services available from both government and private non-profits, each reveals a unique focus. For a particularly Marion County-focused perspective, read Commissioner Colm Willis. To get the complete picture, be sure to read the letters and updates from Rep. Bill Post (HD 25), Rep. Christine Drazan (HD 39), Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (HD 17), Rep. Rick Lewis (HD 18), Rep. Raquel Moore-Green (HD 19), and Sen. Denyc Boles (SD 10). Go ahead and start with your elected official(s) before branching out to read the others. After all, you've probably got quite a bit of time on your hands as long as you are complying with Order 20-12. If not, who knows, maybe you will end up with nothing but time on your hands.