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Health officials concerned about post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 spike in Oregon

Travel and increased social gatherings over the holidays may create another spike in a few weeks.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The turkey has been carved and it's back to the new normal. Health officials hope people had a quiet holiday and kept any gatherings very small, because the COVID-19 crisis is bad enough already. But officials worry there may be a another spike in a few weeks because of holiday activity.

“We have absolutely over the past few weeks seen a sharp rise in cases in Washington County and across the state," said Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County public health officer.

Baumann pointed to new case numbers in her county and statewide that continued to surge through the holiday weekend. Hospitalizations are still rising and people continued to die. Thirty Oregonians died from COVID--19 during the long holiday weekend, from Thursday through Sunday.

“We’re having to have conversations with families telling them what’s happening they’re not allowed to say goodbye it’s very, very difficult for the patient, the families and for the staff,” said Dr. Vicki Sands, who has been working in the emergency department at Providence Portland Medical Center for 25 years. 

She said this is the worst the pandemic has been. Sands is beyond frustrated by those who are not taking the virus seriously.

“What’s amazing to me is the amount of denial and the unwillingness of our citizens to have common decency and protect other people by simple actions of wearing a mask or staying apart," she said. "I’ve had people yell at me and my staff that we are making this up."

Despite the experts urging people not to travel, we know millions of Americans did. The travel advisory for Oregon, Washington and California says people should quarantine if they left their state and came back. Others who stayed home may have held larger gatherings than recommended. And many more of may have made more trips to the grocery store; it's all extra social contact.

“Whenever that’s the case, what I think is a good thing to do is really double down on all of the standard precautions,” said Baumann. “So, really being diligent about your distancing from other people, being diligent about wearing a face covering, and reducing the number of contacts you have in your everyday life.”

And remember, Oregon's freeze makes way for new restrictions starting Thursday. You can expect Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties to remain in the extreme risk category, along with many others. In part, that means social gatherings limited to six people, restaurants limited to serving up to 50 people, outdoors only. Gyms and other indoor recreation remain closed. And stores can operate up to 50% capacity.