SOUTH COAST — Oregonians living outside of the Portland metro and Willamette Valley areas are less likely to take precautions against the transmission of COVID-19, a new state report shows.
The report, commissioned by the state and released last week, surveyed about a thousand Oregonians on their fears about the coronavirus and the precautions they're taking. Statewide, the report showed that most people in Oregon are taking safety measures — but that some groups are still taking risks with their health.
Eric Gleason, the assistant director of Coos Health & Wellness, said in a press briefing Monday that the statewide numbers painted a rosier picture of the county's situation than what he's seen.
"I don't think that that's representative of our community, for the most part," Gleason said. "While I think that a good number in our community are taking precautions, I think that it's a pretty divisive topic and we still have yet to make headway with, still, a large number of our population."
Of particular concern for Gleason were figures about wearing face coverings, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said slow the spread of the virus.
"I don't think it matched the numbers in those reports," Gleason said of Coos County's mask-wearing tendencies.
The state survey estimated that around 85% of people wear masks when in public indoors, and around 60% do the same outdoors. But Gleason says that's not necessarily true in Coos County.
"If you just go somewhere, you could probably start taking some polls and you're probably about 50-50," Gleason said. "I don't think it matches the numbers in that report."
Other indicators in the report suggested that South Coast residents are taking the virus less seriously than other parts of the state.
In the "rest of (the) state," which is how the survey defines areas outside the Portland tri-county area and the Willamette Valley region, a quarter of people have been to 11 or more social gatherings in the last two weeks, the survey shows. Statewide, only 16% of residents report attending that many gatherings, and over half reported attending three or fewer.
Attending social gatherings outside the home increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC.
The report also found that people in the "rest of state" region are less concerned about the state's situation, less worried about getting sick with the virus and less inclined to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available.
The study had a number of other findings, including that half of respondents statewide have traveled more than an hour away in the last two weeks, and that over 40% have eaten at a restaurant in that time frame.
People's primary motivation for wearing protective masks is to protect family, friends and the community, according to the study, and Gleason noted that protecting the community is an important reason to take precautions.
"We cannot diminish its severity because it hasn't affected you personally. And I think that we see that a lot," Gleason said. "I think we still need to be mindful, we still have to take the precautions that we've been pushing since February."