Benton County Not Meeting Coronavirus Benchmarks

A new video from Benton County on Facebook provides an update on COVID-19’s effect on the area. As of Sunday, July 19, Benton County has reported 124 coronavirus, half of those in recent weeks, with 7,040 tests coming back negative. Six people have died in the county from coronavirus. 

Kelly Locey, Benton County Health Department communications coordinator, said in the video posted on Friday, July 17, that recently released data shows the county is not currently meeting some Oregon Health Authority (OHA) public health indicators. Gov. Kate Brown uses the indicators to gauge the impact of the pandemic on Oregon counties.  

The OHA criteria Benton County is failing to meet includes: no increase in positive tests for seven days (positives are up 3.5 percent), fewer than 5 percent increase for seven days (cases are up 29 percent), contact tracing 95 percent of all new cases with 24 hours (Benton County has contract traced 94 percent within 24 hours), and at least 70 percent of new COVID-19 cases traced to an existing case (17 percent were traced to an existing case). 

Half of the positive coronavirus cases in the past three weeks occurred in people who are between 20 and 30 years old, but Locey said the demographics could shift if an outbreak should happen in a long-term care facility or other congregant setting.  

Locey said the county’s ability to conduct contact tracing is reliant on the public’s willingness to answer calls and work with investigators. She said the county continues to build its contact tracing staff to increase capacity and prepare for the wave of coronavirus cases expected this fall as students return to schools and Oregon State University’s campus becomes active. 

In June, county officials discussed scaling back the county emergency operations center to help prepare and plan for the fall while maintaining a state of readiness. This week, the county will ramp up the emergency operations center again in response to failing to meet the OHA coronavirus criteria. 

By Cody Mann