After the increase in COVID-19 cases reported in Multnomah County this weekend, public health officials today offered some explanations for the increasing number, including that the majority of cases in the past week were attributable to people. infected by family and social networks.
There are seven to eight groups of cases in separate ethnic and immigrant communities that officials focus on. County officials did not mention which groups, but said they would release more details after talking to different communities, warning that all ethnic groups are seeing new cases.
As the county headed for the reopening, more people appear to have socialized with larger circles of family and friends, authorities said.
“We have seen that increase in the past few weeks,” says Kim Toevs, director of communicable diseases for Multnomah County. “It is human in nature to expect that the people who could be the most risky to someone would be strange, and the people who would be the safest are the people they know, especially family and friends.”
But Toevs said family and friends are spreading the virus.
“Those are the people who are most likely to infect you,” he said, “because they will be closer to you in your personal space and generally you will interact with them for a longer period of time.”
Multnomah County health officials called for caution, even among family members.
On June 21, the state’s most populous county saw its highest total number of COVID cases in a single day: 84 people. On Monday, June 22, the numbers were much lower, with 17 new cases. (Statewide, Oregon experienced a high case count, with 190 cases.)
Workplaces have also played a role in the increase, Toevs said, although there is no single workplace outbreak that accounts for a significant number of cases.
“We have an increase in a small number of connected cases in the workplace setting,” Toevs said. “Most of those cases have five or fewer linked cases.”
For the week ending June 14, 49% of cases in the county could not be linked to another case. County officials had no updated information from last week, so it remains unclear whether Multnomah County is doing a better job of tracking the virus in hopes of limiting its spread.