HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Asking questions as the virus marches on

Written October 22nd, 2020 by Hasso Hering

We’re well into autumn, and the 2020 coronavirus epidemic in Oregon continues.

The coronavirus numbers put out by the Oregon Health Authority and recited by the press could use a little interpretation, starting with the number of “new deaths.”

On Thursday, for instance, the headline on the state handout was “OHA reports 373 new confirmed and presumptive Covid-19 cases, 11 new deaths.”

Of the deaths, only one was really new. It was the case of a 96-year-old woman in Washington County who died in her residence on Oct. 20 after testing positive for the virus two weeks before.

One of the so-called new deaths had occurred on Oct. 4, another two days later on Oct. 6. Then there was one on the 11th and another on the 13th. One was on the 15th, a week before the report. Others happened on the 17th, the 18th and the 19th.

The point that is the ups and downs in the daily corona death reports don’t mean that things are getting better or worse. The deaths are not made public on the day they happen but when the individual reports reach the data compilers at the OHA.

Two other things worth asking about.

One is the matter of recovery from the virus. In its weekly surveillance summary, the state touches on that point. The latest report available Thursday still cites numbers based on people who got sick in April and were interviewed before May 1. Of them, 1,682 or 89 percent were considered recovered. The report also says the median recovery period of people who had symptoms but were not hospitalized was 20 days.

As of Thursday, total cases in Oregon were 40,810 and total deaths numbered 646. Twenty days before, the total number of cases was 34,163. By now, even if a few of them are included in the current total of deaths, that still leaves more than 33,000 who are recovered. Why then does OHA not update its data on how many have beaten the disease?

Then there is the question of excess deaths.

By Oct. 4, some 29,029 Oregonians had died since the first of the year. That was nearly 1,700 more than the three-year average for that date, and more than 2,000 higher than the five-year average. But the number of deaths associated with Covid by that date was 584.

The numbers tell us that people in Oregon this year are dying at a much higher rate than average, but most the of excess deaths could not be blamed on the virus.

So the question is: What is it that is hastening so many more people than usual to their deaths? (hh)



24 responses to “Asking questions as the virus marches on”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    You expect government to publish positive data on how many have beaten Covid19?

    Such naivete.

    Never discount the POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE of the negativity effect – the universal tendency of negative events and emotions to influence us more strongly than positive ones.

    As Hillary reminded us several months ago, the coronavirus pandemic would be a terrible crisis to waste.

  2. Scott Bruslind says:

    For reference and insight, the CDC weekly summary and interpretation.:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html

  3. Donald says:

    The paper was reporting if the person who passed had any underlying health issues. It would be really nice to know what the causes of the increase in deaths were. Other diseases, depression, suicide etc.

    • sonamata says:

      OHA has suicide data on their website. Suicide-related visits to Emergency Departments, Urgent Care Centers, calls to Oregon Poison Center, and Lines for Life in 2020 are very similar to 2019. There were 898 suicides in 2019, and this year, as of 10/6, 512.

  4. thomas earl cordier says:

    Agreed
    want to see total deaths/week,and rolling 4 week avg of that number –smooths data
    AND same for covid deaths
    AND same for covid cases.
    This should minimize the hysteria.
    OPEN THE SCHOOLS

  5. Ean says:

    Could it be that deaths are being underreported for COVID-19? I know with flu typically the number of estimated deaths is around 3 times that of the number of confirmed deaths. So if that same multiplier were applied to the number of COVID deaths then the excess mortality numbers would match quite well with what we are experiencing. Of course it is also possible that social isolation and other negative impacts from social distancing are increasing deaths unrelated to COVID, there doesn’t seem to me to be an easy way to accurately ascertain the true causes though.

  6. James Engel says:

    Aww, with so many more people now in Oregon is it any wonder that there will be higher numbers of deaths. Then say from the lower population numbers (and deaths) in 1960-1990…??? If I had inoperable cancer now with a few months to live BUT tested positive for COVID then died. Would I be counted as a COVID cause or cancer??

    And, why do we “dance” around the blame for all this. Call it what it should – the Chinese COVID. It all started with them!

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      IF COVID hastened your death it is. Your cancer would be a secondary cause.
      If not, not.

      I pointed this out to you before.

  7. Kathy Rogers says:

    There are so many questions and so few answers. Thanks for trying!

  8. Lundy says:

    The human death rate remains steady at 100%. Everyone is going to perish from something. I’m neither an epidemiologist nor covid denier, but it’s felt from the start that the virus dangers were exaggerated or overemphasized at the expense of disregarding the public health hazards of bankruptcy, unemployment, joblessness, etc.

  9. Steven Reynolds says:

    HH,

    When are you going to publish the rest of the responses from the candidates? I think Keith Kolkow mentioned you asked about CARA, interested to see the rest of the responses. Getting ready to vote, weighing all the options and positions, time is running out…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The story on what the candidates thought about the CARA riverfront project ran on Sept. 25.

      • Steven Reynolds says:

        I didn’t realize that was the CARA response. I thought it would be more of a macro overview, thoughts on TIF, new infrastructure spending v. blight spending, etc.

        Looking back on this article I really like the response from Councilor Olsen… I may not agree with it and I have some serious questions regarding return on investment when you’re only collecting the difference in value of the upgrades and not the entire project, but it’s a great response and shows a comprehensive understanding of policy.

        “In the not to distant future, a new Albany City Council will be asked to allocate the remaining funds CARA can legally borrow or spend on fixing the blight and decay that continues to plague our Downtown. There are many opinions on how that money should be spent. So perhaps we should start with the founding documents that initiated our CARA urban renewal project to begin with. (You can find them by Goggling, “Central Albany Revitalization Area – City of Albany”)

        In the original CARA plan, adopted in 2001, the first three priorities are; (1) Property Acquisition, (2) Commercial Building Rehabilitation and (3) Storefront Revitalization. Coming in at number 47 on the list we find Public Facilities. In that category they list libraries, museums, performance areas, parks and the arts. Parks come in almost last. They knew then what we know today, fixing up fancy parks does not cure blight.

        I truly believe that a new, forward looking Albany City Council will take a good look at the original CARA plan. It is a plan that has worked and we need to keep it going. We have many small businesses who want to restore and improve the downtown. They stand ready to make substantial investments in buildings and infrastructure. This will permanently increase the tax base by millions. All they need is a little help from CARA. A large and expensive new park won’t increase tax revenues by a penny. But it will increase our park maintenance budget at a time when we can’t even take care of the parks and facilities we have.

        A revitalized Downtown will be a great place to live, shop and dine in a variety of locally owned businesses and restaurants. Small local business keep the local economy strong and growing. Let’s keep our money in Albany, for Albany. Not send it to Amazon and Walmart.

        I hope the voters agree. Examine the City Council Candidate’s views and vote accordingly.”

        – Dick Olsen

        I know some of the candidates have an extensive understanding of policy and others have little experience but it would be nice to know their breadth of knowledge.

        One other note, I hope you all tune into the budget session meeting on Oct. 26th, it’s all about PERS and Compression. If you want to know where the community is heading and how healthy it is, not feel blindsided down the road, this is where you’re going to find out.

  10. Kurt says:

    I disagree with minimizing Covid-19. Covid skeptics should remember that Oregon has done better than most other states. We can’t just live our lives completely like before the virus, or otherwise we will have death rates like Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York, etc. Also, not everyone that has recovered from Covid is completely fine either. That should be taken into consideration. Studies are showing that some of those that have recovered from Covid-19 are having serious complications after being released from the hospital. Doctors have treated Covid-19 survivors, including young people, that are dealing with a new condition called post-Covid fibrosis. This is a serious, possible lifelong condition, according to Dr. Shah, a New York pulmonologist.

    The Covid reported deaths in our country are not an overcount as some conservatives would suggest, but are most likely an undercount. Maybe not in Oregon, but almost surely an undercount on the East Coast, in the South, and in the Midwest. Norway, New Zealand, Taiwan, and many other countries have totally blown our country out of the water in controlling and preventing Covid from spreading. Even large countries like Germany and Japan have done fairly well in containing it. None of what happened in our country was inevitable, but I guess “it is what it is” when we have have selfish, incompetent, angry man in the White House.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””Norway, New Zealand, Taiwan, and many other countries have totally blown our country out of the water in controlling and preventing Covid from spreading.”””

      Indeed. The biggest star just won a historic re-election victory — after a doubtful future before the pandemic. To see many pages of how and why, search “Ardern” and click on anything recent.

      Meanwhile, in U.S.A. … oh, let’s not go there.

  11. Phil says:

    I’m not convinced we have a full understanding of what a full recovery from covid looks like. Plenty of folks coming out the other side of infection with permanent circulatory and respiratory issues.

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-long-term-effects/art-20490351

    Also, it’s not clear how quickly one can be reinfected by the same strain of the virus. So I don’t think it’s totally a good faith question to ask about who has recovered from COVID without also asking a host of other questions.

  12. George Pugh says:

    There is a quaint term for some of the deaths, it’s called “old age.” I don’t know where it starts or where it ends but I’ve noticed a frightening number of listings in the obituaries include my year of birth. We sometimes call ourselves “war babies.”
    So I wonder, does my age group, or the one infront of us, represent a bulge in the age demographic within which death, for whatever reason, is more common and our numbers represent just a typical percentage in a larger population demographic. .

  13. Rick says:

    And the experts expound again.

  14. Bob Woods says:

    What is wrong with you people? There is plenty of information available from the people who have spent their lives studying, testing and sharing information among researchers around the world to fight diseases all around the world.

    Your great grandparents died from diseases that can be cured today with cheap antibiotics. Your parents had you vaccinated as children so you didn’t get polio, diphtheria, pertussis.

    And now you run around like a bunch of idiots because you’re unwilling to use the internet to actually LEARN about science, and the millions of people worldwide working to make life safer for everyone. Instead you chase wild rumors on facebook, posted by high school flunkies, just because you want to be afraid.

    America used to lead the world. You’ve turned it into a cesspool.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Not sure what you’re getting at, but it seems to include the “anti-vaxxers.” Unfortunately, they’re getting a big boost by a President who promises what the scientists and drug companies are not yet ready to deliver, thereby undermining public confidence in vaccines. Along with behavior — also undermined by the President — vaccines are what will get us out of this mess.

  15. Birdieken says:

    What will we do next time a foreign country releases another virus. Will our leaders use this event to take away citizens liberties and to fundamentally transform the country (Never let a good crisis go to waste). Freedom is only worth one life today ( one’s own). It seems no longer true, “that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty (JFK). Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”

  16. HowlingCicada says:

    All the numbers discussed here might be interesting and are certainly fodder for political attacks, but the numbers that really matter to getting rid of the mess are:

    1 – The effective reproduction number – “It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person” (quote from link below). Don’t call it “rate” because that implies a number per unit of time (my own opinion).

    2 – The currently-infectious percentage of the total population.

    Here’s a website (started by a couple tech bazillionaires) with graphs for each state of #1 over time:
    https://rt.live/
    Mouse-over graphs to show more stuff. The FAQ discusses methods:
    https://rt.live/faq

    Mississippi “looks” in good shape but shows a lot of missing test data. I don’t think this was accounted for. Oregon has been doing quite well, compared to the rest of the country.
    https://rt.live/us/MS
    https://rt.live/us/OR
    I added these links because you can only navigate to state “details” losing-your-page forward and long-reload-time backward.

  17. Birdieken says:

    Not all people who are dying of COVID are at nursing homes with underlying health conditions. Are the people not in the nursing homes with underlying health conditions getting the virus once they get to the hospital or are they not following CDC guidelines? Then why aren’t folks with underlying health conditions recommended to stay at home and hang low until a vaccine.

  18. Bob Woods says:

    Being more concerned over economic gain, over people sick or dying, tells you all you need to know.

 

 
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