Coronavirus Update: Hopeful Signs as Oregon Reaches 20,000 Cases

House Speaker Tina Kotek

Coronavirus Update: Hopeful Signs as Oregon Reaches 20,000 Cases

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Let’s be honest, it’s been another challenging week in pandemic land. Oregon has now topped 20,000 confirmed and presumptive cases of coronavirus.

While data this week from the Oregon Health Authority has been distressing, a couple of encouraging trends give me hope.

Today, the Institute for Disease Modeling released new a new report (found in full here), which provided those glimmers of hope. The report says that after weeks of transmission level increases, “estimated current transmission level appears to have returned to the level in early May.” This does not mean that the virus is any less contagious or dangerous. But, hopefully, this is an indication that we won’t see the case spikes that have become all too common over the last few weeks.

So, that’s the good news. I hope we can continue to build on these positive trends. We're three months into our phased reopening, and the recovery is very fragile.

Let’s move to the warning signs from the OHA’s weekly report on COVID-19, which you can read in full here. Here are the key takeaways:

The percentage of positive tests increased to 6.4% from Monday, July 27, through Sunday, August 2. This is up from 5.1% the previous week. Hospitalizations increased over that same time period, rising on a week-by-week comparison from 127 to 141.

Weekly infections and deaths also rose, while most cases continue to be “sporadic.” This means no source has been identified for those cases, which is consistent with community spread. In Multnomah County, more cases continue to be attributed to social gatherings, as Oregon Public Broadcasting covers here. This is a frustrating trend across the state.

Oregonians in their 20s continue to have the highest incidence of reported infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are cough and headache.

Additionally, I’m beyond frustrated to see more news this week about the inequities this pandemic continues to expose. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported here about the disproportionate rate of statewide cases in the Pacific Islander community (12 times the infection rate of white Oregonians). Willamette Week reported here on the impact crowded housing is having on rising cases of coronavirus, which disproportionately impacts lower-income and more diverse communities.

Deep breath. Exhale.

As I said at the start, there are reasons for optimism. I’m going to focus on that and what we can accomplish together. This journey continues, and we must always remember that if we don’t take the necessary safety precautions, community spread will continue and it will impact our most vulnerable communities the most.

Stay strong and follow the 3 W’s!

3 W's

Update on County Watch List

Governor Brown announced yesterday that Lake County has reduced the spread of COVID-19 enough to be removed from the County Watch List. The county joins Lincoln and Union counties, which were taken off the list last week. The County Watch List allows the state to prioritize resources and assistance to counties that are seeing the broadest community spread.

You can read the Governor’s full statement on the decision here. The following nine counties remain on the list: Baker, Hood River, Jefferson, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Umatilla, and Wasco.

Legislators to Return in Special Session

On Monday, the legislature will convene in Salem for a special session to rebalance the state budget, at the request of Governor Brown. Currently, the two-year state budget has a deficit, and the Oregon Constitution requires a balanced budget. It’s prudent to take care of it now because we still have another year left in the budget, thus any reductions can be spread out and can have less negative impact.

The legislature has built up record reserves to prepare for an economic downturn, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Oregon was recently rated among the best-prepared states in the country for a recession. Even so, this is an unprecedented economic and public health crisis, which is why I continue to implore the federal government to pass more support for Oregonians.

I think our budget co-chairs have crafted a good budget adjustment plan that prioritizes critical services like education and health care and maintains fiscal accountability. We need to protect essential programs for our most vulnerable Oregonians to support an equitable economic and public health recovery.

I share the Governor’s interest in addressing other urgent issues like police accountability. The Joint Committee on Transparent Policing and Use of Force Reform has done a lot of impressive work on some complicated topics over the last few weeks. While the legislature made progress on policing reforms in June, the work is far from finished and we need to continue to build on the energy of this historic movement.

Oregon Public Broadcasting has more information here on bills that are in the works to streamline and improve access to unemployment payments for Oregonians. There is also a proposal to increase how much Oregonians working part-time can earn while still getting full unemployment benefits.

As Congress continues to have difficulty passing another coronavirus relief bill, I hope the legislature can take up these concepts to do more for unemployed and underemployed Oregonians.

Increased SNAP Benefits to Continue

The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) has received approval to continue, for the month of August, to provide increased food benefits and waive the interview requirement for new applicants – making it faster and easier for Oregonians to access benefits.

This continuation will result in an additional $30 million to eligible Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients this month. SNAP households will automatically receive the additional allotment in the same way they receive their current benefits. For most people, that’s on an EBT card.

No additional action is needed from Oregonians already enrolled in SNAP. The increase brings all households to the maximum SNAP benefit. Households that already receive the maximum benefit will not receive any additional benefits.

You can read the full release about this news here and learn how to apply for SNAP and other benefits online or by phone here.

For other food resources, please go to this helpful link from Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

The Latest News

  • Oregon Liquor Control Commission agents have been visiting bars and restaurants a lot lately and they’ve found that most establishments being inspected are complying with the state’s distancing and mask mandates. The Oregonian has more information here.
  • The Oregon School Activities Association has postponed the start of fall sports until the spring. Willamette Week has more details here.
  • KGW has a report here on the latest briefing from the Oregon Employment Department, which reports meeting its goal for processing the backlog of PUA claims. There’s still more work to do to get Oregonians the benefits they’re owed, but it’s nice to see this benchmark achieved.
  • The Oregon Health Authority reported 423 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total of new and presumptive cases to 20,636. Sadly, nine more people have died, meaning there have been 348 Oregonians to die of the coronavirus. On Thursday, the OHA reported 267 new cases and one death. You can click the images below for links to interactive data tables about coronavirus in Oregon.

Cases and Testing- August 7

Oregon Epi Curve- August 7

Testing and Outcomes by County

To read past newsletters, you can go to this link. For up to date information, please check this link to the Oregon Health Authority where regular updates are posted:

Please email me at if you have specific concerns that have not been addressed by the OHA. Our office will do all we can to help and protect all Oregonians.

Thank you for reading! We will get through this together.



Tina Kotek

State Representative
House District 44
Speaker of the House

email: I phone: 503-986-1200
address: 900 Court St NE, H-269, Salem, OR 97301