News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

County responding to surge in COVID-19 cases

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the region and across the state, Deschutes County Health Services reports that case investigation and contact-tracing teams are currently not able to contact all residents who test positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours.

Daily case reports hit a record on Friday, December 4, with 129 reported. Sisters cases stood at 92 on December 2, up from 78 a week before (cases are broken out by zip code on a weekly basis). There was a statewide record of 2,176 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases and 30 new deaths reported on Friday.

Governor Kate Brown marked Friday’s statistics: “Today, Oregon marked a tragic milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “The Oregon Health Authority reported 30 deaths today, a record, and the number pushed us past the 1,000th death since the start of this crisis. This disease has touched every Oregonian. It has taken a devastating toll on our families, our communities, our businesses and our physical and mental wellbeing.”

The local area is seeing more COVID cases than at any time previously in the pandemic.

Deschutes County’s testing percent-positive rate is 11.3 percent, which indicates that testing is limited and that most cases may go undetected. Percent-positive rate gives an indication how widespread infection is in an area and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission. Health officials consider test positivity of five percent or greater “too high.”

On Monday, St. Charles Health System reported 49 COVID-19 patients; six in the ICU, with four on a ventilator.

COVID-19 metrics have pushed local schools into the “red zone,” which may impact whether or not students can participate in in-person education (see related story).

Restrictions put in place to stem the spike in COVID-19 cases have severe impacts of their own, putting small businesses and people’s livelihoods in jeopardy.

Sisters businesses have been forced to adapt repeatedly and many local residents have made personal commitments to “shop local” to support them. Restaurants have been particularly impacted by restrictions. Some Sisters restaurants are offering outside dining, despite the advent of cold temperatures, and many are focusing on take-out options (see related story).

Health Services officials ask those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are awaiting a call to:

• Stay home and self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset. If you do not have symptoms, self-isolate for 10 days following your test date.

• Common symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people may have loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, sore throat, and muscle pain, or feel very tired.

• Notify individuals you were in close contact with and let them know they should quarantine for 14 days. Contacts can resume normal activities on day 10 of their quarantine if they have no symptoms, but please continue to self-monitor for the full 14 days and stay home if you have symptoms.

• Close contacts are people you have been within 6 ft. of for more than 15 minutes, beginning from two days before your symptoms began.

• For people who test positive but do not have symptoms, notify all close contacts beginning from two days before you were tested.

• If your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider. Tell them you tested positive for COVID-19.

Public health officials encourage individuals who are symptomatic or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 to obtain rapid or point-of-care testing. For information on where to get tested in Deschutes County, visit

Public health officials are asking those who have had a COVID-19 test, other than rapid or point of care tests, and are still awaiting their test results to:

• Stay home and away from others while waiting for results.

• Notify individuals you were in close contact with and let them know that you are awaiting test results and that they should stay away from others.

• If your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider. Tell them you are waiting for COVID-19 test results.

“Our public health team needs the support of our community to follow public health guidance and self-isolate and begin notifying your close contacts if you test positive,” said Public Health Director Nahad Sadr-Azodi. “With this increase in cases, it’s critically important that we continue to be vigilant in taking precautions — wear your mask, keep your social ‘bubble’ small, and maintain good hand hygiene.”

Deschutes County Health Services expects that the current delay in the contact tracing process is temporary. The Deschutes County Board of County Commissioners has approved additional positions to support COVID-19 response and the County is actively working to post and recruit for these positions.


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