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Health expert explains Oregon's recent spike in COVID-19 cases

As for any impact this uptick will have on the reopening of counties, that is still to be determined.

PORTLAND, Ore — She's been expecting it. Dr. Claire Wheeler, a public health specialist at OHSU, has studied pretty much all the COVID-19 models. She was by no means surprised by the recent spike.

She said widespread testing and contact tracing is leading to more known cases and therefore contributing to the uptick, as are the recent outbreaks, like the one at Pacific Seafood in Newport.

"Between finding these little hot zones or mini outbreaks around the state and our stepped-up ability to find and test people, and test the people we should test, all of that mixed together is contributing to this increase in cases," Dr. Wheeler said.

As for the recent protests and demonstrations?

Dr. Wheeler said they could potentially lead to more cases, much like what we saw following the Memorial Day gatherings.

But she also pointed out that most people attending these events are wearing masks and taking all the right safety precautions.

"I would hate for these protests to be blamed for subsequent spikes when we don't have real clarity on what's happening in those protests," she said.

As for any impact this uptick will have on the reopening of counties, that is still to be determined.

Multnomah County is hoping to enter phase-one of reopening this Friday. The county chair and health officer will be reviewing that plan at a special meeting Wednesday. 

But as of now, that plan has not changed. And Dr. Wheeler said those experts are well aware that, as the guidelines soften, there will be an uptick in cases.

"Our hope is is that we can judiciously control each uptick until we get to that point where we have enough immunity in the community to limit, to... be able to open everything without risk," she said.

But until that time, we should continue to take precautions. Take it from an expert.

"I personally continue with my N95 covered with a cloth mask whenever I go out and I'm very diligent with my hand hygiene and I'm careful about the things I bring into the home," Wheeler said. "I'm not entertaining and not going anywhere that I don't absolutely need to go."

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