Two statewide surveys conducted by the Oregon Health Authority have found that 80% of Oregonians are wearing masks, but 50% are attending social gatherings with friends and family regularly during the pandemic, with 20% attending events with 10 or more people. 16% reported they participated in 11 or more social gatherings in the past two weeks alone.
These social gatherings are what’s considered to be super spreaders. OHA Director Patrick Allen released a statement that if Oregonians continue to attend such events at this rate, the state will not be able to prevent more infections or open up more schools and businesses.
It was found by the surveys that the high level of social activity is more common among those under the age of 50 who live outside of the tri-county area and the Willamette Valley.
As a college town, Corvallis citizens have expressed concern about students returning to Oregon State University this fall. More worry rose when student social activity led to 13 positive COVID-19 cases in the last week of September.
Given that OHA’s surveys have shown that a large percentage, most of them under the age of 50, are participating in social gatherings through the pandemic, people have reason to be concerned. However, OSU is currently reporting a positive outlook on students and COVID policy.
Oregon State Police continue to be the law enforcement provider for the OSU Corvallis campus until Dec. 31, and it has been working closely with the Department of Public Safety, Student Conduct and Community Standards, and University Housing and Dining Services to address community concerns regarding COVID and the OSU population.
OSP Lt. Craig Flierl told The Daily Barometer, “To date, there have been no issues surrounding violations of OSU’s physical distancing policy reported to OSP.” He added that if the policy is violated, it will likely be handed to Student Conduct and Community Standards for handling.
Carol Millie, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, told The Baro that the office has received many concerns about OSU’s COVID face covering and physical distancing policies, and that all reports of alleged violations are being responded to.
Millie also told The Baro that generally, she has seen OSU students follow the school’s COVID policies, and those who have violated it are interested in learning more about how to better follow the rules.
Flierl has also been impressed by OSU’s handling of COVID. He told The Baro, “The university has done a phenomenal job of [informing] health, safety concerns, and expectations for students, staff, and faculty.”
Recently, after finding evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in two student housing facilities’ sewage, OSU reported that among 300 students tested at the buildings, all tested negative. Students were given the option to either be tested or self-quarantine after evidence of the virus was found. Ultimately, 183 residents from Sackett Hall and 126 from GEM apartments were tested.
Vice President for University Relations and Marketing Steve Clark gave OSU Newsroom a few potential reasons for the negative test results.
“It is possible that those infected were not tested and instead chose to self-quarantine. It also is possible that the viral markers in the wastewater came from people who work at or visited the buildings but were not tested,” Clark said. “As well, OSU researchers know that people can continue to shed virus in wastewater long after disease symptoms have resolved, and they are tested negative by nasal swab and no longer infectious.”
For the time being, OSU students have not caused any major outbreaks in the city of Corvallis. However, it’s only the third week of classes, and if students gather in large groups at high frequencies and do not take care to socially distance and wear masks, the community could face an increase in coronavirus cases.
By Cara Nixon