Rachael Banks named Oregon’s new public health director




a hand holding a glass with a blue background: A COVID-19 saliva test is labeled before being placed in a protective bag at a site in Massachusetts last week.


© Wicked Local Staff Photo/Ann Ringwood
A COVID-19 saliva test is labeled before being placed in a protective bag at a site in Massachusetts last week.

PORTLAND — The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday announced Rachael Banks as its new public health director.

She’s held the same position in Oregon’s most populous county since 2017, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Banks will be tasked with leading the state’s public health division amid the coronavirus pandemic, while improving racial and ethnic inequalities. She starts Oct. 27 and is replacing Lillian Shirley, who had said she’s retiring.

Read the story here.

Lane County could return to Phase 1 of reopening

Lane County Public Health reported 37 more positive COVID-19 cases Tuesday. The county has had 1,276 total known cases of the virus. 

Jason Davis, a spokesperson for Lane County Public Health, contrasted this increase in cases with a couple weeks ago, when daily case counts in the low 30s made for a daily record, at Tuesday’s pre-recorded press conference.

“That has now become the norm, which is the opposite of what we want to see,” Davis said. 

There are 189 cases in the county that are considered infectious, 10 more than reported Monday, which is only 11 cases shy from matching last week’s local record infectious cases. Infectious case counts measure the number of people who are within 10 days of their symptom onset and are considered by officials as capable of passing on the virus.

“If things continue on the rate that they currently are, we will potentially have to move back to Phase 1 and that is something that Public Health does not want to see happen,” Davis said. “I don’t think anybody in the community wants to see that happen.”

Read the story here.

37 more cases in Lane County

Lane County Public Health reported 37 more positive COVID-19 cases Tuesday, brining the county’s total to 1,276.

There are 189 cases in the county that are considered infectious, 10 more than reported Monday, and only 11 cases shy from matching last week’s local record. Infectious case counts measure the number of people who are within 10 days of their symptom onset and are considered by officials as capable of passing on the virus.

So far, 18 Lane County residents died from COVID-19-related health issues and 10 have been hospitalized. 

The University of Oregon reported eight new cases from within the university community on Tuesday. The UO’s numbers are part of the county’s total; UO has had 136 total cases since June 1.

Also on Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 299 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases statewide, along with eight new deaths.

Oregon’s death toll stands at 555. The state’s total number of COVID-19 cases is now  33,291.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (8), Clackamas (28), Clatsop (2), Columbia (3), Coos (1), Crook (1), Deschutes (7), Douglas (7), Jackson (11), Jefferson (4), Josephine (5), Klamath (10), Lane (32), Linn (4), Malheur (9), Marion (49), Morrow (4), Multnomah (52), Polk (3), Umatilla (11), Wallowa (1), Washington (41) and Yamhill (5).

1 million people have died from COVID-19

In nine months since the first cases were reported in central China, more than 1 million people have died worldwide from COVID-19.

The news comes as countries around the globe are at very different stages in managing the outbreaks: Some European nations are tightening some restrictions over fears of a second wave. Cases in the U.S. are ticking back up after a summer spike that was followed by renewed restrictions and then a decline. India’s cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks and it may soon become the country with the most infections. New Zealand appears to have weathered a second cluster of cases. And South Korea is seeing its lowest case tally since it reinstituted some lockdown measures during a virus resurgence.

Meanwhile, researchers around the globe continue to make progress on clinical trials for vaccine candidates, but mass vaccinations may not come until at least mid-2021, a World Health Organization official said Sunday.

Trump administration plans to distribute 150 million rapid tests

President Donald Trump, under increasing pressure from a national rise in coronavirus cases and reports about his taxes, announced Monday a plan to distribute 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests “in the coming weeks.”

At least one expert said that’s too little, too late.

Trump’s administration announced in late August a $760 million deal with Abbott Laboratories to deliver the antigen-based tests, which are quicker but not as reliable as the commonly used PCR tests. Trump said 100 million of the Abbott tests would be sent to states and territories to help them reopen their economies and schools, and the rest to institutions that serve vulnerable communities, including nursing homes.

The U.S. has recorded the most coronavirus cases (7.14 million) and deaths (205,000) of any country in the world. According to the New York Times tracker, the U.S. has seen a case increase of 23% over the last week compared to mid-September. 

Dr. William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor known for his work in HIV/AIDS, told CNN that India has been screening most of its population with rapid tests for 2-3 months, and a much wealthier country like the U.S. should have been doing the same.

“It’s much better late than not at all, but it’s inadequate, even at its present level,” Haseltine said. “It has to be 10 times, 20 times that level to begin to make a real difference in putting a cap on this pandemic.’’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo to combat New York COVID uptick with rapid testing

New York has seen clusters of COVID-19 cases cause a spike in statewide numbers in recent days, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he would deploy rapid COVID-19 testing machines to target the areas.

New York reported more than 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, the highest spike the state has seen since early June, when the new case load was declining from an April peak. The state reported 866 new cases on Sunday, and its statewide infection also rate hit 1.5% on Sunday, the highest level since July.

Most of the new cases are centered in the Mid-Hudson and Southern Tier regions. New York City has also seen clusters contribute to an overall spike, with neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens of particular concern to health officials. Some communities have infection rates as high as 30%, and Cuomo said about 200 rapid testing machines will be made available based on ZIP codes with the highest infection rates.

– David Robinson

Poll: 1 in 3 parents say they won’t vaccinate their kids against flu this year

Public health experts fear winter will bring the seasonal flu on top of the coronavirus pandemic, and one national survey shows that one in three parents say they won’t get their children flu shots this year.

“The pandemic doesn’t seem to be changing parents’ minds about the importance of the flu vaccine,” the poll analysis concluded. “It could be a double whammy flu season this year as the nation already faces a viral deadly disease with nearly twin symptoms.”

The poll, released Monday by Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, also reported that 14% of parents said they will not seek the flu vaccine because they are keeping children away from health care sites because of the risk of coronavirus exposure. Others may not be getting reminders to get the flu shot because child health providers have limited the number of patients seen for in-person visits.

– Frank Witsil and Adrianna Rodriguez

WHO plans to distribute 120M rapid tests to less-wealthy countries

The World Health Organization intends to distribute 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to lower- and middle-income nations, according to a plan that still lacks full funding. The WHO, which approved the tests on an emergency basis last week, said it agreed to the program with its partners Monday.

The antigen-based test costs $5 apiece, and the $600 million program — which may start as early as October — is expected to provide better access in areas where it’s harder to get the more-accurate PCR tests that are commonly used in many wealthier nations. The WHO tests may yield results in 15-30 minutes.

Inovio’s vaccine candidate trials paused amid FDA questions

Clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine are on hold as the Food and Drug Administration asked the manufacturer for more information about its delivery device.

Pharmaceutical company Inovio said Monday that its middle- and late-stage trials for its vaccine candidate were “on partial clinical hold” as it answers the FDA’s questions and the agency responds. The company said the delay was not caused by any adverse effects from the potential vaccine in the first stage of its trial.

The company’s vaccine candidate relies upon its device Cellectra, which uses small electrical pulses to open up pores in the skin that allow DNA to enter the body. The company said it would answer the questions in October and the FDA will have 30 days to respond.

Sweden’s health minister: 1M global deaths is ‘fairly small number’

Sweden’s health minister, the architect of the country’s approach to keep much of the country open amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Monday that the global death toll of 1 million people “is a fairly small number compared to many other diseases that cause death.” 

Anders Tegnell made the comment on the radio and added that “we must not be fooled into thinking that this is the only problem we have in the world when it comes to global health.”

Sweden, unlike many of its European neighbors, kept restaurants, gyms, schools and other businesses and services open as the pandemic swept across the continent. While those arguing against lockdown orders often point to Sweden as success story, the country has fared worse than its Nordic neighbors.

Florida schools reopened, but a surge in coronavirus didn’t follow

Many teachers and families feared a spike in COVID-19 cases when Florida made the controversial push to reopen schools in August with in-person instruction.

But a USA TODAY analysis shows the state’s positive case count among kids ages 5 to 17 declined through late September after a peak in July. Among the counties seeing surges in overall cases, it’s college-age adults – not school children – driving the trend, the analysis found.

The early results in Florida show the success of rigorous mask-wearing, social distancing, isolating contacts and quick contact tracing when necessary, health experts said. But the experts caution that just because things went well for schools early doesn’t mean they can’t be the source of future problems. And they warned against reading the data as a reason to reopen all schools or abandon safety measures.

– Jayme Fraser, Mike Stucka, Emily Bloch, Rachel Fradette, Sommer Brugal

Mall Santas may lose gigs in first holiday season of the pandemic

In a year like no other, even Santa Claus may find himself out of work.

A visit to the mall to sit on the jolly old elf’s lap may be yet another tradition knocked to the wayside by COVID-19, as wary parents keep their children home. And while that’s bad news for kids, it may be worse news for all those Santas who count on gigs at department stores and office Christmas bashes to earn extra cash – or, in some cases, a big chunk of their annual income.

“I normally have 20 to 30 bookings, and right now I have two,” said Mike Hadrych, 72, of Canoga Park, California, who has made up to 70 appearances as Santa during a single year.

– Charisse Jones

Florida surpasses 700K cases as restaurants, bars reopen at full capacity

Two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered counties to let restaurants and bars reopen at full capacity, Florida’s count of COVID-19 cases topped 700,000 on Sunday with the death toll hitting 14,202.

State data showed the new milestone at 700,564, around 10% of the nationwide total of more than 7 million. While Florida is still one of the hot spots in the nation, the number of new diagnoses has dropped from a month-high of 24,864 tallied in the week ending Sept. 5 to 18,227 recorded in the past week.

DeSantis acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over and there could be a second surge of cases. But, he said, the state has plenty of hospital beds available should that happen. Closing the economy and throwing people out of work, he said, won’t stop the virus. “I don’t think that’s viable. I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he said.

– Tony Doris, Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

By the numbers: COVID-19 cases in Oregon

Reported by Oregon Health Authority, updated at 12 a.m. Monday.

Case investigations

32,994: Total cases confirmed by test and presumptive cases

547: Total deaths

31,390: Tests that are positive

642,035: Tests that were negative

673,425: Total number of tests given

Cases by age group

0 to 9: 1,549 (5%)

10 to 19: 3,445 (10%)

20 to 29: 7,149 (22%), 2 deaths

30 to 39: 5,831 (18%), 4 deaths

40 to 49: 5,366 (16%), 13 deaths

50 to 59: 4,184 (13%), 37 deaths

60 to 69: 2,638 (8%), 83 deaths

70 to 79: 1,611 (5%), 144 deaths

80 and older: 1,205 (4%), 264 deaths

Not available: 16 (0%)

Sex

Female: 17,044 cases (52%), 234 deaths (43%)

Male: 15,847 cases (48%), 313 deaths (57%)

Non-binary: 3 case (0%), 0 deaths

Not available: 100 cases (0%), 0 deaths

Hospitalized

Hospitalized: 2,538 (8%)

Not hospitalized: 27,189 (82%)

Not provided: 3,267 (10%)

Source: Oregon Health Authority

Directories of open local businesses, including those doing delivery, take-out

The Eugene and Springfield chambers of commerce are compiling listings of local businesses that are open and the modified ways they are offering their goods and services to make it easier for people to support them while staying home.

Read the full story, including links to the lists, here.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Coronavirus updates Wednesday: Rachael Banks named Oregon’s new public health director

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