The Herald and News is switching to a new expanded format for its COVID-19 updates in response to rising case rates in Klamath County.
The new front page item shows three graphs and a variety of important metrics public health officials use to track the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The first graph, which shows the county’s cumulative cases, also includes the number of new cases each day along with the percentage increase from the most recent case update.
There’s also a measure of cases per 100,000 people, which helps compare areas with different populations by standardizing that population. Because Klamath County’s total population is below 100,000, this number will always be larger than the county’s actual case count. But it helps public officials compare Klamath County to other Oregon counties by thinking of case totals as a proportion of a fixed population.
The 7-day average shows how many new cases per day Klamath County has seen over the past week. It’s a better representation of the overall trend in positive cases, as it smooths out days that have seen more or fewer cases compared to the days that came before them.
As of December 3, the Oregon Health Authority has changed the metrics for testing in the state. Instead of counting the number of people tested, the data will now reflect the total number of tests (both negative and positive) completed in each county as “electronic lab reports” (ELRs). This number is higher than the original testing measure because it includes individuals who get tested multiple times.
The H&N’s data show the total number of ELR tests, as well as the percentage of all tests done so far that have been positive (cumulative test positivity). Comparing positive tests with the total number of tests instead of the total population helps avoid overblowing county case numbers in the event that a county ramps up testing and uncovers more positive cases as a result.
As of December 23, updates will include how many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered each day, as well as the total number of doses administered in the county and the percent change from the previous update. Keep in mind that the number of doses administered does not equal the number of people considered "vaccinated" against COVID-19, as each individual must receive two doses of the vaccine approximately three weeks apart in order to achieve immunity.
Finally, a school metrics chart has been replaced with the measurements that drive the county's risk level from the Oregon Health Authority. OHA tracks cases per 100,000 and test positivity over the most recent two-week period and, based on cutoff points in those metrics, evaluates the virus's spread from low to widespread. Those designations translate to county risk levels that dictate how businesses and other public areas can operate.