A Trump-backing Oregon county that helped lead the charge to reopen has seen a spike in coronavirus cases — which could offer a snapshot of what’s to come in other areas that relaxed social distance guidelines.
Deschutes County gained approval from state officials to reopen last week, but contact tracers have investigated 26 new positive test results since May 15, and that’s a pattern that seems to be playing out in other counties that backed President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
“This suggests that rhetoric from some of the president’s supporters against maintaining public health measures may become more muted, as the nation continues to grapple with the many unknowns about COVID-19’s continued spread,” wrote William Frey, the author of a new analysis from the Brookings Institute.
The new cases in Deschutes County, which backed Trump 44-40 over Hillary Clinton, could roll back the state’s approval for Phase 1 reopening, which can be reviewed after a 5 percent increase — which the county far exceeded, with a 27-percent jump for the week ending May 20.
“Our largest age group is 20 to 29 years,” said Morgan Emerson, the county’s public health preparedness coordinator.
The county’s previous cases tended to be older, and often travel-related or likely contracted from a family member, at least 18 of the new cases have been traced to social gatherings attended by multiple families.
“All it takes is one COVID-19 positive person to attend a barbecue, or a block party, or a picnic, and then we’ll have another situation where we are investigating multiple cases,” Emerson said.
Deschutes County has not yet met the criteria for high prevalence — that is, at least 100 cases per 100,000 people — but the largely rural county is trending in the same direction as similar counties in the South and Midwest over the past four weeks.
Of the 176 newly identified high-prevalence counties, the president won 151 compared to 25 that backed Clinton, but polling shows Republicans are still more likely to reject social distancing measures.
Republicans are more willing than Democrats or independents to take part in activities involving other people, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, and two-thirds of them believe the “worst is behind us” in the pandemic.
That’s compared to 70 percent of Democrats and half of independents who believe “the worst is yet to come.”