Benton County Headed to Governor’s COVID Watchlist

Benton County may find itself stuck on Gov. Kate Brown’s watch list for failing to meet four important public health indicators for reopening. The county has reported a total of 132 COVID-19 cases and six deaths as of July 23, with 7,449 negative tests according to state numbers.  

The county is currently experiencing an uptrend in positive coronavirus cases as it continues to struggle with contact tracing; positive cases are up 5 percent with a 29 percent increase of new cases in the past seven days. Both of those are bad signs as they exceed the stats of public health indicators set by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Brown for phased reopening of counties.  

The guidelines require at least 70 percent of new COVID-19 cases to be traced back to an existing case, but in Benton County that has only happened with 17 percent of new cases.  

When placed on the state’s watch list, counties face business closures and more extensive health requirements as well as closer monitoring from the OHA and public health officials. No counties have been added or removed from the governor’s watch list since it was released. There are currently eight counties on the list: Lincoln, Wasco, Jefferson, Lake, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Malheur.  

Benton County has also seen an uptrend in cases in younger people, particularly between 20 and 30 years old. This causes added concern as OSU will soon be welcoming students back for the fall term.   

Brown said an updated watch list of counties with highly concerning case numbers would be released in the coming days. Benton County Health Department Co-Director Charlie Fautin said during the most recent Advocate-hosted CitySpeak forum that the county has made the governor’s list due to missed benchmarks for re-opening during the pandemic. 

By Emily Weninger