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COOS COUNTY — A total of 103 individuals in Coos County have been tested for COVID-19, but there are no positive cases yet.

A total of 53 have come back negative. Local health officials are still awaiting the results for 50 tests.

Though there have been no confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the area yet, Coos Health and Wellness Epidemiologist Brian Leon said it could still be here.

“I think there is community transition here in Oregon, which means there are cases popping up or being detected when there is no epidemiological link,” Leon explained. “Not having that link means they were not in contact with a confirmed case or are not traveling to what we call an ‘endemic area’ where there is a lot of transition happening… It’s not just in the Portland-metro area now.”

Leon pointed to surrounding counties with positive tests for the disease, from Deschutes County to Josephine County, as proof that COVID-19 is in the Southwestern Oregon area. That data, combined with the fact that there aren’t enough tests, brings Leon to believe that there is transmission in Coos County that just hasn’t been detected.

When asked about the spread rate, he used the example of one infected person on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. In enough close proximity, one person could infect dozens.

“In the current context with social distancing, we’re still seeing households in other parts of the state becoming infected very quickly when one case pops up,” Leon said. “Even with the precaution to sanitize in a household, it spreads very quickly.”

Compared to the seasonal flu, where one infected person goes on to infect two to three people, COVID-19 “exceeds that.”

“With the social distancing effort, we can reduce that to one or less than one and see a decline in cases across the state and country,” he said.

Of course, Leon recognizes how understanding this disease could be hard to comprehend for individuals who “don’t have much experience in communicable diseases.”

“It is difficult to process and any interruption on our lives is irritating for some,” he acknowledged. “But I would say – for all our sakes – the fact that the disease is transmitting through most with extremely mild symptoms or no symptoms, social distancing is to protect the most vulnerable in the community. Just because you don’t get very sick doesn’t mean you couldn’t potentially cause someone some serious complications of COVID-19.”

At the time of writing this article, the Oregon Health Authority counted 191 novel coronavirus patients. There have been five deaths so far.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 236, or by email at worldnews1@countrymedia.net. Follow her on Twitter: @je_wardwriter.

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