A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What the numbers say about corona

Written June 21st, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Albany school fields like this at West remained locked up last week because of the corona crisis.

People in Albany may have had it up to here with corona news, but there are some items not often reported that may be of interest.

You can find these items not in the daily rundowns of new cases and deaths. Instead, you find them in the COVID-19 Weekly Report published by the Oregon Health Authority. The most recent one came out June 17, and you can read all 23 pages here.

The first item of interest: The Albany area has two ZIP codes, and in both together, there have been 75 known cases of the infection. In 97321, there were 35, or about 14 per 10,000 people. In 97322, there were 40, or just under 12 per 10,000.

So if this was just a matter of chance alone — which it’s probably not — the risk of getting the virus in Albany would have been only slightly greater than the 1 in 1,000 risk cited on one website of “needing emergency treatment in the next year from injury by a can, glass bottle, or jar.”

We’ve heard that racial minorities are especially vulnerable to the virus. The numbers say this is true as far as infections go. Blacks, Asians, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders all had far more cases per 10,000 than Whites. But the fatality rate among Whites, 5.2 percent, was much higher than for Blacks with 2.8 percent, Asians with 3.7 percent, and Native Americans and Pacific Islanders with 2.3 percent each.

So why would Whites be less likely to get the infection but far more likely than other races to die if they do get it?

Also of interest is the number of deaths overall. The Health Authority keeps track by the week. For the first week of June, Oregon deaths from all causes have averaged 668 for the last five years and 667 for the last three years. This year, the toll was 665, and COVID-19 got the blame for six.

Every day the news gives us the number of new cases and new deaths and the totals so far. If you want a more complete and less unnerving picture, wait for the weekly report and look it up when the Health Authority puts it out. (hh)

13 responses to “What the numbers say about corona”

  1. Bob Zybach says:

    Thanks Hasso: It is really helpful to get some accurate reporting on this issue, as compared to the popular media and state government. Definitely a case of the cure being worse than the disease, and hopefully people will learn from these events next time we are faced with a pandemic or with government overreach when they vote.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The numbers clearly show that small cities like Albany are being culturally oppressed by the State.

    It’s no different than racism and religious discrimination. The Gov’s one size fits all strategy results in the unfair treatment of some.

    It’s time for a protest. But in keeping with Albany’s compliant nature, be sure and wear a mask as mandated by the Gov. She knows best about some things, no?

  3. Dave Sullivan says:

    How are you going to sell newspapers or get people to watch your videos if you report boring facts about this disease?

    Won’t it work much better if you invent scary stories about discrimination and individual death? People respond to anecdotes they can relate to … not to statistics. I bet your colleagues in the news media would be much happier if you got with the program and stopped using statistical facts in your analysis.

  4. Kurt says:

    I disagree with the sentiment that coronavirus isn’t a serious issue. Oregon has been smart to take the measures it has. Our country as a whole has done an abysmal job though unfortunately. One can’t just reject reality and imagine this isn’t the case. The deaths from coronavirus are not made up!

    “It really does feel like the U.S. has given up,” said Siouxsie Wiles, ‘an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand — a country that has confirmed only three new cases over the past three weeks and where citizens have now largely returned to their pre-coronavirus routines.’

    Why couldn’t our country as a whole react to this pandemic like New Zealand or Taiwan or Germany or Norway. These countries, as well as others, have gotten coronavirus under control, but we haven’t as a nation, and it is extremely concerning. The longer we don’t have it under control the longer we can’t return to normal, but these other countries and places can return to a near normal.

    No sensible or rational person should want Oregon to follow the example of Arizona, Texas, Florida, or other states in the southwest and south where coronavirus is surging. Or follow the example of New York or New Jersey in April and May. As a state and a nation we should be doing what’s required and needed to get this virus under control. Death is inevitable, but death from coronavirus should not be inevitable. It shouldn’t be taking place at all, but it is.

  5. thomas cordier says:

    thanks HH for the clarity. Oregon’s first week, June total of all deaths @ 665 with only 6 attributed to virus19 helps calm the waters

  6. Carla Mundt says:

    I appreciate the link to OHA report. When there are numbers reported for Linn County, it will be nice to look up the specific zip code 4 Linn County– Jeffferson, Lebanon, Sweet Home, etc. for example.

  7. HowlingCicada says:

    “””Blacks, Asians, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders all had far more cases per 10,000 than Whites. But the fatality rate among Whites, 5.2 percent, was much higher than for Blacks with 2.8 percent, Asians with 3.7 percent, and Native Americans and Pacific Islanders with 2.3 percent each. So why would Whites be less likely to get the infection but far more likely than other races to die if they do get it?”””

    The following seem obvious, but I certainly can’t prove any of it:

    1 – Minorities tend to work more than Whites in crowded settings (e.g. food processing) or otherwise hazardous settings (nursing homes). Hence their higher infection rates.

    2 – The combination of higher White life expectancy and an increase of lethality at the highest ages. Whites are more likely than others to have the means to extend life beyond the point of diminishing return, often in places like nursing homes.

  8. hj.anony1 says:

    Just an observation! The masks are coming off faces in Albany. Fewer and fewer are covering up. Hope we don’t all get sick!!!

    • HowlingCicada says:


      I’m guessing about half of Albanians value (to varying extents) Trump’s leadership. Last Saturday’s spectacle in Tulsa — to a half-filled arena, but solidly packed in the lower part — showed REAL AMERICANS how to behave. Only about 3% of the attendees (not counting police, media staff, etc) wore face coverings.

      For anyone who missed it, here’s a good video, clearly audible at double speed:

      One off-topic observation if I may: Among the 50 or so attendees close to the podium and visible throughout the speeches, 10% or maybe more are non-White, including one particularly enthusiastic guy with a cloth mask around his chin (so it looked to me). In the rest of the arena, the non-White percentage was very much smaller.

      Anyway, we should soon see, both in Tulsa and in the rest of the country, if We did it right, or if New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, etc., did. To leave no doubt, the ALL CAPS above is pure sarcasm. I’m trying to be jovial and even-handed, but inside I’m seething.

  9. chezz says:

    My cousin in beautiful downtown Copenhagen sez she had never been inside a restaurant until she was 9 years old. Here, in the land of the fast food, and, we are in an interesting spot called ‘we want it now, we want it fast, no waiting period, thank you’.
    Is there no discipline and ownership in this Covid? Social distancing/masks/staying home is not a brand new idea this year. There needs to be some patience and owning your own personal space to get through this. Folks were terrified in the beginning of the pandemic unravelling here in the US. Now folks are just plain tired of it, and away we go with deaths and illness spiking. Maybe it would help if the citizenry could see photos of the families impacted by death/illness and how it affected them – oh yes, we need to add lack of employment. We need to get to work on ‘ourselves’.

  10. Sidney Cooper says:

    Thanks, Hasso. I have the OHA link saved and get the daily update. Both Benton and Linn are running well below some other counties, some as brief spikes and other, more populous counties staying high.

    It’s easy to get lost in all the numbers. The wider one looks the more variable the data becomes.

    I decided to go back a hundred years and find out how the Spanish flu affected Americans of that time. I got a copy of The Great Influenza by John M. Barry and it was fascinating reading.

    The explanation of the growth of the US medical community alongside the virus made it clear those were prehistoric treatment days, by comparison. And the virus had its similarities to today as well as its differences.

    Rather than share a lot of that, let me just say that the transmissibility and lethality of that flu was frightening to citizens who, like us, got both strong and weak leadership and medical advice. The medical knowledge the author shares is sometimes hard to grasp on first blush but alittle side reading helped with my understanding.

    Masks were made mandatory when the second wave showed up in Army camps and overran camp borders to decimate cities, notably Philadelphia. It was refreshing to see something so simple made mandatory and enforced once the medical and political leaders FINALLY understood the virus was unstoppable, otherwise. They also had their version of social distancing, closures, objections on the grounds of religious freedoms, etc.

    One town in Colorado forbade entrance with armed sentries and kept the disease out, a method that, combined with remoteness, was a singular solution.

    The Spanish flu second wave made me accept the possibility of a second wave with Corona, and wonder what genetic mutation the virus will undergo with regard to transmissibility and lethality, either of which can become worse or better. I believe, come Fall, we will find out.

    We still have the Spanish Flu today, but it has become less lethal as it passed through a century of hosts.


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