Taking your boat out on the Willamette River is one way to spend a warm spring day during these Days of Corona. But we should also pay attention to the Oregon numbers on this outbreak, and the reports we are getting from the state could be more complete.
Every day the Oregon Health Authority gives us the latest number of “new cases” of COVID-19 infections. But it never reports the number of actual total cases, which would subtract those patients that are known to have recovered and no longer have the illness.
New cases reported in Oregon on each of the last four days before Friday numbered 49, 58, 83, and 51, and the total reported Friday was up to 1,371. The outbreak has been going on for about a month. So you would expect quite a few of those thirteen hundred Oregonians to have recovered.
Adding new cases every day, and reporting that number without subtracting any, makes it appear the outbreak is getting worse every day. But subtracting the number of known or presumed recoveries would give a more complete and perhaps less alarming picture.
Then there’s the matter of “underlying conditions” in Oregon patients who have died. On Thursday the Health Authority reported six more lives lost to COVID-19. On Friday it said the infection had claimed four more. In each of these 10 cases, as in virtually all the previous 38 deaths, the agency cited one or more “underlying condition.”
Just what were the “underlying conditions” in each case, and how serious were they? If the virus had not been present, would the person have died within a few days or weeks anyway? Or would the person with those conditions probably have lived another five or 10 years except for the virus?
Knowing the nature and severity of the “underlying conditions” would help readers of these Health Authority reports gauge the level of risk that the new coronavirus represents to them. (hh)