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Oregon to change how it reports COVID-19 recoveries

Covid-19 virus
Covid-19 virus

The Oregon Health Authority said Friday it's developing a new metric to measure the proportion of people with coronavirus who are still alive 60 days after the onset of symptoms.

The Oregon Health Authority Friday announced it plans to again change the way it reports recovered cases of COVID-19. The agency will temporarily stop reporting recoveries until a new plan is in place.

Prior to May 1, health officials with the health authority would call patients with COVID-19 to track when their symptoms disappeared and to assess their recovery. People who reported no longer being symptomatic were reported as “recovered.”

But, after that date, the Oregon Health Authority decided to switch a “60-day-rule.” Meaning that “any confirmed or presumptive case who is alive 60 days after the earliest of their onset of symptoms or collection of their first positive test will be considered recovered,” the agency’s Jonathan Modie told Oregon Public Broadcasting at the time.

Modie said the agency began using that strategy as a way to shift resources, allowing Oregon Health Authority epidemiologists to focus their time away from assessing recovery to performing case investigations and contact tracing.

The agency said Friday that way of reporting recovered cases did not factor in people who experience “prolonged illness or lasting effects from COVID-19.” For that reason, the agency said, the count of recovered cases after May 1 will no longer be reported on its website.

Along with not factoring in people who may have ongoing symptoms from COVID-19, officials with Klamath County Public Health said at the time that OHA’s “60-day-rule” could create a potentially inflated number of active cases.

“We really felt as though waiting until 60 days to announce that a case had become recovered, and that they were going to stay active for 60 days, would lead people who are really anxious right now to assume that people are not recovering as quickly as they used to,” Valeree Lane, public information officer with Klamath County Public Health, had said about the initial change.

OHA said it is developing a new metric to measure the proportion of cases who are still alive 60 days after the onset of coronavirus symptoms.

“However, the definition is still being refined, and my take into consideration factors that measure disease severity, such as hospitalization status,” OHA said in a statement.

The agency did not state a deadline for that new metric.
Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Meerah Powell is a general assignment and breaking news reporter for OPB. She previously worked as a news reporter and podcast producer for Eugene Weekly in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Along with writing and audio work, Meerah also has experience with photography and videography. She graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication.